Top of My List

God, husband, child, family, church, home.  If you asked me to list my priorities beginning with the most important, I would rattle off a list that looks something like that one.  Maybe I would include some other things.  But I would definitely tell you, “God first.”  Or I might say something like, “God isn’t just at the top of my list, He is within my list.  Everything I do is for the purpose of glorifying God.”

But is that true?  Ever since I had Nora, spending time with the Lord has felt so different.  My mind has so much trouble focusing.  My prayer time looks something like this:

“Thank You, Jesus, for this day.” Why is Nora fussing? Maybe I’ll try her pacifier.  Okay, now she’s happy.  Continue.

“Please be with me today as I–” Nora, please stop crying.  Are her feet cold?  Hold on, let me get some socks.  Okay, continue.

“Lord, please be with Matthew today as he works.  Let him be a blessing today, and give him patience at work…”  I should probably pray while I unload the dishwasher, to save time.

“Father, I ask that you would continue to keep us healthy.  Thank you for keeping Nora healthy and safe–“ Oh, this glass has a lipstick stain.  Gross.  I’ll just slip this back in the sink…

“Sorry, Lord– where was I?”

….

This morning as I was squeezing in some much needed Bible-reading time between kissing Matt good-bye and feeding Eleanor, I stumbled upon Luke 10:38-42.  This little ditty details the story of two sisters named Martha and Mary, who are honored to be visited by the Lord Jesus Himself.  Martha was busy being the perfect hostess while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and “listened to his teaching.”  Martha complains to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Instead of telling Mary to step up her game and help out her poor Cinderella-esque sister, Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Boom. Mic drop.  I love how He had to say her name twice to get her to listen.

As I read this passage, I felt instantly ashamed.  Like Martha, I work hard to care for my family and feel annoyed when the presence of God seems far from me.  I ask, “But isn’t it a good thing that I serve my family, Lord?  Isn’t that what you have called me to do? Why can’t you come and meet me? I miss You.”

Luke 10:40 says, “…Martha was distracted by much serving.”  Reading this simple verse made me realize that we can become distracted by doing wonderful, godly deeds like cooking dinner for our family and keeping our home tidy.  We can become so wrapped up in striving for excellence as wives and mothers that we forget to sit at Jesus’ feet and be with Him and listen.

Today, I really needed to hear Jesus’ gentle words to his beloved Martha, “…one thing is necessary.”  Listening to the voice of Jesus and sitting down in His presence is necessary.  More important than vacuuming, more important than cleaning the kitchen.  Laundry can wait.  My Savior longs to sit and talk with me.  He is the “good portion.”

Psalm 27:8 says, “My heart has heard You say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ My heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.'”

You know what I have discovered is hard for a mom? Resting.  Sitting down.  Focusing.  But oh, how I am going to try.  He deserves more than my meager, tired, leftover minutes between mommy activities.  He deserves more than half-hearted prayers full of half-finished sentences while I try to multi-task.  He deserves more than a quick, absent-minded prayer of thanks after I’ve already taken a bite.  He deserves more of my time and more of my heart.

Especially if I claim that He is at the top of my list.

Nap time for Nora means rest for Mommy
Nap time for Nora means quiet time for Mommy
Nora is better at resting than me!
Nora is better at resting than me!
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A Pretty Good Deal

I have never been an abnormally materialistic person. In fact, when it comes to love languages, giving and receiving gifts is last on my list; I’d prefer a hug or a kind card.  But lately I have struggled so much with wanting to buy stuff.  Friends of ours recently moved into their new home and have begun the process of setting it up.  Suffice it to say that upon entering those beautiful wooden double doors, one is greeted by a room that looks like it came straight out of Better Homes and Gardens (but like a really trendy, rustic version).  I’m so jealous.  Our last visit there, I found myself gazing longingly at the handcrafted fireplace, the brick wall in the den, the furry couch pillows…I could go on…

Don’t get me wrong, I love our apartment.  It’s cozy and warm and the perfect size for our little family.  And it has plenty of stuff in it.  Plenty of stuff we don’t need, in fact.  But it seems like every time I see something that looks pretty, whether it’s in a house or on a person, I feel like I have to have it.

I try to justify my desires for more things by only shopping in the clearance section, or at thrift stores and flea markets.  I tell Matthew, “You’re so lucky that I’m not high maintenance and can shop for so cheap.”  Yeah.  ‘Till I buy ten books, three shirts, five dresses, a pair of shoes, and a homey knick-knack at Goodwill for $50.00.  Then it’s not as cheap.  The point is, I constantly desire what we don’t need.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having money and spending it on your family and your home, and even on fun frivolity every now and again.  But these past few weeks, there has been something seriously wrong with my heart.  My heart has forgotten that eventually all I have ever owned and will ever own will be in a landfill.  My heart has forgotten that happiness and fulfillment do not come with possessions.  My heart has forgotten that the Bible has promised me treasure that is spiritual.  In fact, 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “But godliness with contentment is great wealth.”

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…”  (Eph. 1:3) What are these spiritual blessings that we have when Christ lives in us, you ask?  In his letter, Paul goes on to say that we have been chosen by God before Creation, we are holy and blameless, Jesus loves us, He has adopted us as His children, we are accepted, we are redeemed by His blood, we are forgiven, we have unmerited favor, we can know His will, He has given us an everlasting inheritance, we know the Truth, we have the Holy Spirit, we have hope, we have power (Eph. 1:1-14).

Welp.  This list makes even the best flea market bargain look like dirt.  And I have made some awesome flea market purchases.  But even if I stood all alone in an empty field with no clothes on my body or a single item to my name, I am ever so wealthy.  Because I have the treasure that is Christ living inside of me, and it will never perish or fade away or leave me for someone better.

This spiritual treasure is expensive, though.  It came at a high price.  God’s precious Son gave His perfect life in order that this treasure may be ours.  The only thing we must give up is our pride.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “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 and be found in him…” (Phil. 3:8-9).

Though purchases are necessary and can bring moments of pleasure and joy, I must continue to remind myself (and all of you please hold me accountable) that the material possessions the world offers are rubbish when compared to the priceless gain of knowing Jesus and being found in Him.

My soul is so grateful that God saw me as a worthy purchase and paid the absolute highest price so that I would be forever His.

Her smiles make me rich
Her smiles make me rich

Again

My husband and I are alike in many ways, but Matthew is a creature of habit while I require some spark of spontaneity in everyday life.  He could happily scarf down a PB&J for lunch everyday, while I constantly change up our grocery lists because I tire of foods so easily.  He can watch episodes of The Office on repeat, while I get bored watching shows I’ve already seen.  Matt thrives on routine and rejoices in the mundane in a way that I envy.

Which is why being at home with Nora was difficult at first.  I was busy— but I felt like I was always feeding her, changing her, or soothing her.  When Matt would come home from work I would practically force him back out the door to go out for dinner or take us on a walk or do anything just to get out and do something different.  Some days, I was a mommy on autopilot.

But then I think about how God’s heart rejoices in routine.  He created the sun to set and rise and He made the seasons to come every year without fail.  Psalm 74:16-17 says, “Yours is the day, Yours also is the night; You have prepared the light and the sun. You have established all the boundaries of the earth; You have made summer and winter.”  The Lord delights in seeing His creation do the same thing over and over again.

At the same time, He makes each day new! Psalm 90:14 says, “Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”  On a similar note, Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3:23, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…” Each day we can ask the Lord to satisfy us with His love and show us His mercy again.  What gladness can be found in the faithfulness of the Lord! Every waking of the sun brings new mistakes, new mercies, new moments, new opportunities, new experiences, and new triumphs.

I’ve discovered that (as with most things in life) we have to walk in balance.  We can find happiness in the mundane trappings of life, while at the same time soaking in the newness and uniqueness of each day.  I have since learned to drink in deeply and slowly every bath time, every feeding, every smile.  Now my gaze lingers on her face for longer, I hold her before bedtime a moment more, and my hugs and kisses have multiplied.  But also– each day is a new opportunity to wake up and be the best, most joyful mother I can be.  I am learning to take sweet pleasure in our daily ritual, while at the same time asking God in my heart, “What new do You want to show me today?  What can I learn?  What adventure do You have in store for today?”

Life can be so enjoyable when we balance excitement for the future with true contentment in the present.  Instead of just waiting for what lies ahead, I want to savor each moment as it happens.  One great thing about babies and kids is how they are continually captivated by the same things.  Games like Peekaboo and Hide-and-go-seek never get old, and they constantly say things like “Throw me again, Daddy!” or “One more time!”  For some reason, Nora is completely fascinated by lights and ceiling fans.  She tilts her head and looks up at them no matter what house or room she’s in.  We can learn from children what it means to find the most ordinary things completely riveting.  I want to be the kind of mother that lets herself be constantly delighted by what life brings her way.

So I am learning from my husband, who finds peace and comfort in routine.  I am learning from my daughter, who is fascinated by the ordinary.  And I am learning from my Father, who is exuberantly joyful to spend every day caring for His children.  My prayer is that this daughter will learn these lessons and live in such a way that she cries to her heavenly Father every night, “That was so fun, Daddy! Again!”

We love hearing her squeals!
We love hearing her squeals!
Nora loves looking at her hands.
Nora loves looking at her hands.