Thursday, December 29, 2011

Please Don't Judge Me because I have C-Sections...

I'm amazed at how many strong opinions there are on natural birth, hospital birth, and csections. I never planned or hoped to have a csection and yet, several weeks after my oldest was due, when I still had no signs of labor, I had my first csection. It put me in a humble place at future baby showers and I noticed, maybe for the first time, just how strong we can hold a preference. Sometimes saying hurtful things as a result towards others who don't do things our way.
As I walk through the early childhood years, I'm learning that there are SO many areas the Bible doesn't speak clearly on that we tend to get overly passionate about on: Santa or no? public, private, or homeschool? potty training early or waiting? discipline, "clean" eating etc... Truthfully, we all are prone to judge each other in areas we are passionate about even though the Bible really never addresses them. I'm no less guilty than the ladies who have judged me, so I need to look inward at my own opinions-turned-judgements and learn what God says about it. Just because God has guided my family in certain directions following His principles does not mean other families will sense Him call the same. I've landed in Romans 14.

"As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."
I've appreciated the wisdom of Pastor Mark Lauterbach (of Grace Church in San Diego, CA) to think on as we tackle any subject that the Bible doesn't clearly teach for or against:
"In cases where there is no one to one correspondence and where multiple principles apply, seek personal application and follow it without universalizing the rule.
 I must apply.  I have every reason to seek the application of Scripture to my life -- and to do so as unto the Lord.  To say, "It doesn't matter, I am free" is not living unto the Lord.  To say, "I think this is an area of life where I may partake or abstain and know I am pleasing God, but I sense God is calling me to partake" -- THAT is conscience toward God. 
 I dare not add to the Word of God.  I also have no warrant to go beyond what is written, and make the work of the Spirit in my heart and life the universal rule for all, and to judge all by my rule.  And I must turn from the most subtle form of legalism, to think my rule is superior and if the other person "got it" as well as I do, they would agree with me.  It is precisely against such pride that the Apostles speaks in Romans 14."
Let's seek Christ and unity in Him. Let's forgive when others judge us and fight against our own tendency to judge others. Let's live so fully in Christ, that love and grace flow constantly in our relationships with each other and there is no room for judgement.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Death=Life, But the Dying Part Scares Me

I'm in count down mode for baby number 3. Only a few precious days until we meet him. That also means that in just a few days I will have major surgery #3. My last csection was pretty scary and things didn't go well. It was so bad that when they asked Andy (who was told to sit down and that he may be asked to leave) if he'd like to go with Caleb, he said "no" and stayed with me. I cried. A lot. It was a scary experience first as I reacted badly to the anesthesia and then later as I laid on the operating table seeing my blood squirt up, and wondering if I'd be ok. It brought out a heart of fear that I battle. Though being with Jesus face to face sounds AMAZING, I'm still afraid of the actual dying part.

I see how God has lovingly spurred me towards Himself in my struggle. It was after that day that I really started praying that He would give me a heart that is full, at peace, and resting in Him all my days. I have been asking Him to ease my fear and instead give me joy in both the days I have here and the beginning of real life with Him that my death will bring. Today, as I prep for surgery and think on these things again, I'm encouraged by a post by John Bloom called "There Never Seems to Be Enough Time" on desiringgod.org. You can read the whole post on desiringgod, but here are a few highlights:


So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom(Psalm 90:12).

What did Moses mean by “a heart of wisdom”? He meant a heart that believes “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
And what is the fear of the Lord? “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil” (Proverbs 8:13).
And what is evil? At root, evil is unbelief in God and any action that results from it: “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
A heart of wisdom is a heart that believes God’s promises, trusts his wise governance over all of life, and turns away from anything that is not faith.
Life is more than food or clothes (Matthew 6:25). Life is more than accomplishing items on a “bucket list.” Life is more than spending time with loved ones, though that may be granted as a precious gift not to be squandered. “Life is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
“And death is gain” (Philippians 1:21). “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). The reward of a heart of wisdom is that we really will spend every day in an eternity that will not pass away, just spending them with the Son, our great delight.

Friday, December 23, 2011

We Aren't Giving Each Other Gifts This Year, Part 2

I shared yesterday that we aren't giving each other any presents this Christmas. Not even stockings. And we are thrilled to do it. You can read more about how God lead us through our 6 year old's discomfort at receiving gifts on Jesus' birthday in my last post... but here's where we left off: How can we give Jesus gifts on His birthday??? Though there's an obvious celebration we have as we eat cake, sing, read his birth story, remember Him, and seek hIm together, what about giving a gift? Here's the answer God gave Andy and I as we sought Him:

 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”(Matthew 25:35-40 

We give to Jesus by giving to the least of His people. We’ve been praying and looking at ways to do this all advent. We’ve given toys, donated to salvation Army, spent our “eat out” money on extended family to show our love for them instead of on ourselves, helped the Children’s home with food from our pantry, we caroled in our neighborhood twice with neighbors and with some church friends passing out candy and encouraging lonely neighbors, we offered a pregnant missionary wife whose husband is overseas dinner and a movie night with us, etc… It’s been incredible to see how God has lead us… through a child… and how creatively we’ve been able to give even in a leaner financial season. 
Giving to Jesus by donating a well to a church in Africa...
This Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning, we feel like God is giving us an opportunity to seek Him, delight in him, celebrate His coming and give Him presents of ourselves. This year, we aren't giving each other any gifts. Not even stockings. Instead, Jimmy and Caleb get to look through a gift catalog from a ministry we love called Gospel for Asia to help meet needs of the poor and let them help us pick what gifts our family will “give to Jesus” on His birthday. It isn't a new idea. We know many who have lived this for years. But it is new to us. We have spent years trying to "redeem" our consumerism to point our kids to Jesus and now feel so free to experience Him in this real and raw way that needs no redemption. We are SO very excited, maybe the kids the most, and I feel so thankful that God used our 6 year old in such a big way to reshape our celebration.


We’re praying about how it may shape our years to come… and whether maybe we’ll just have our birthdays be the time we give/receive cool gifts throughout the year and then skip gifts for each other completely every Christmas. Will we take down our tree with cheesy Eeyore ornaments and let our Jesse Tree branch with Jesus reminders and nativity be the decorative focus to stay our hearts on Jesus for our future Christmas seasons? We just don’t know yet (though we lean that way), but now we are praying about where/how God may lead us so that every little thing we do now and in future celebrations is for the glory of Him and our delight in Him. And we're thrilled at how He is turning our hearts away from our selfish greed and towards Jesus and others... and all through a child. Isn't that His way!?! What a sweet Christmas gift.

By the Way: Here's a link to the Gift catalog we'll be giving from. Gospel for Asia is an amazing ministry and 100% of your gift goes to those in need. http://www.gfa.org/gift/home/
Do nothing from selfish ambition or 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 emptied himself, by 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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:3-11

Thursday, December 22, 2011

We Aren't Giving Each Other Gifts This Year

This year, we aren't giving each other any gifts. Not even stockings... Not one wrapped present for us to open Christmas morning... and we're SO excited!!! Want to know why????
‎"The aim of God at Christmas is to make the goodies of the world lose all their attraction in comparison to the surpassing glory of the divine Name. The essence of Christmas purity is not what you stand against, but what you stand in awe of, the glorious name of God."- John Piper
We have been floored by a simple question Jimmy asked and it’s literally reshaping Christmas for us. Here goes “Mom. I love getting presents, but I don’t feel right getting them on Jesus' birthday. Shouldn’t we be giving to Him?”

The wisdom of that kid hit me like a brick. At first I started sharing how our gift giving is out of love for each other and reminds us of THE gift of salvation that came because Jesus came to earth as a lowly human baby… 

But I couldn't shake his logic and then I started reading all these blog posts, facebook posts/pictures, and advent devotionals that affirmed Jimmy’s concern. Each seemed to urge us to stop being consumers and instead learn to be givers. The most startling of these was one beautiful post by Ann Voskamp where her child had an almost exact same question/response time with her that radically changed how they celebrate. You have to read her post! You can see how God convicted me to listen to my child, share with Andy, and seek Him together in this question through it.

And God gave Andy and I an answer to our boy. How do we give to Jesus on His birthday?
            “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”-Matthew 25:35-40

We give to Jesus by giving to the least of His people. We’ve been praying and looking at ways to do this all advent... Tomorrow I'll share what that looks like for our family. But for today, let me say I'm so very thankful for the way God is leading us to Himself in this new, deep, and beautiful way... through a child...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Repost: gift giving

Repost: How can we teach"earning vs. receiving" theology? One way we like to bring it into our conversation with our children is during the times of gift giving (birthday, Christmas, and Easter morning especially)

We don't want our kids to think they can earn or lose good gifts. Gifts are given out of love, not earned. (In the same way, we know that obedience only comes out of love. When our kids know Christ, they will want to obey, not the reverse.)

We show (and explain) that "unearned free gift" teaching in all our gift-giving with the ultimate hope that our kids will see that though they don't deserve God's love,  God gives that undeserved love and forgiveness freely through Jesus to all who call upon Him to be saved. 

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"- Romans 3:23

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."- Romans 6:23

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. " - Ephesians 2:8-9

"remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. " -Ephesians 2:12-13

It's a gift that I still don't fully understand and yet get chills and a little teary just typing about. THIS is exciting and freeing truth and we want them to rejoice in it. Gift-giving can be such a reminder of THE gift God gives: eternal life through Jesus.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Advent Tree Update

Last year, I shared that we'd be trying an advent tree. It consisted of 25 daily Scripture readings, each symbolized by an ornament we hang on a felt tree to help set our hearts on Jesus during the busy, Christmas season.

We had three weddings in three weeks in three different states, and as a result, traveled so much last December. Having this small, foldable, easily stored felt tree to pull out at each stop brought a little consistency to our trip and gave us our own little tradition that carried through each different place. We hung it from hotel lamps, on a nail near our friend's back door, on a dresser drawer knob at grandma's, and finally, on our living room wall at home.

We loved it and are doing it again this year (though without the travel), so I thought I'd post some pictures of it:

day 25 ornament is a gift, and there's the Scripture card

several ornaments and their cards

Day 1- Holy God and sinful man.

putting the last ornament on the tree!

finished tree (and unhappy to be taking more pictures.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Links to Christmas Past...

I'm praying through what to share this Christmas season and thought it might be good while I'm processing all God's showing me to just take today to link to last years series... You can see
-our advent calendar
-Christmas Eve/ Day traditions
-my thoughts on Santa
-a good book/dvd/Christmas craft list
-ideas for sharing Christ with family
-and a clip from the Jesus Storybook Bible...:
Read them all HERE at last year's Christmas season posts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas? We Can't Even Afford Groceries!

I read an awesome post on one of my favorite marriage blogs, the Romantic Vineyard about Christmas during a season of lack. They are going through a series on hindrances at Christmas and shared really openly about their own season of lack and God's provision for them in it.

It was so sweet for me, because I know Christmas when money is tight or when we have no paychecks. We have had many of them. In fact, our last 4 years have almost always included short or no paychecks in October/November. This year, though we are able to pay our bills, we are once again in a season of financial lack as we look right past Christmas and anticipate paying for my csection and the arrival of our precious third son a week or so later.

God has met me in such incredible ways and lavished His grace on me as I've confessed my fear (that it'll become more than a season and could lead to debt) and my dependence and trust in man (we receive any pay based on churches and individuals who give- so I've been associating their generosity or lack of giving with our provision) rather than Him, our sure and faithful Provider.

This week, God brought three things to comfort me:

1) Friends who shared timely reminders of God's constant and specific provision- including today in The Romantic Vineyard blog post

2) A fresh vision of His provision through Scripture:
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"- Romans 8:32
As I read this week of His incarnation (mainly Luke 1-2), I was reminded that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37) and ALL the promises of God find their yes in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). Reflecting on Him coming as a baby and fulfilling all the Old testament promises God made (from Abraham in Genesis to prophets like Isaiah) has been such a sweet reminder that ALL God's promises are true. I can trust that He will continue to provide all of our needs because God promises that He gives generously beyond salvation to us and Jesus coming proved that His promises are right and true ALWAYS.

3) Time to reflect on some of the MANY times and ways He has provided in our lack and continues to keep us debt free and able to give to others, though that seems impossible to me.


Here's one story that came to mind- from Christmas 2008:
We had just gone through 2 months of no paycheck and spent most of our savings to pay our bills. We were several weeks away from Christmas with no money to even buy groceries. We were actually finding the food in our cupboards sufficient (gosh, we have so much), but we were without variety and fresh things to eat and drink.

Two different friends asked me to come to events that I did not want to attend because I was embarassed by my lack of funds, but came to anyway. The first was a baby shower. I couldn't afford a gift, but humbled, I came anyway, and brought a card. It snowed that morning, so a lot of people didn't come. My friend was so thankful I cared enough to come and I realized how silly it had been to even consider not coming and missing that chance to share in her joy and excitement. THEN the crazy stuff happened...

As we were leaving, the host asked if I wanted to take leftovers (Um... YES!!!!) and then handed me several grocery bags to take to my car since so few people came which left lots of unused food. It included yummy homemade goodies, fresh fruit, two loaves of bread, croissants, uncooked sausage, 2 gallons of milk, 1 pretty full orange juice container, chicken salad (my favorite), and store bought cookies.  I cried the whole way home at how tangibly God met our needs. Andy laughingly said: "Wow. Everything but eggs. Isn't that just like God?"

The next event was a week later at a friend's church and she had neglected to tell me it was an exchange. Ugh. Here I was again with nothing to offer. But the ladies encouraged me that they were glad to give and wanted me to be blessed to receive. So, after all ladies went through toys and clothes, I went through- and came out with tons of kid clothes, some clothes for me, and brand new (still in packaging) Cars themed toys for my son. God gave us Christmas presents for our son! They also offered "leftovers" of fruit, breads, bagels (Andy's favorite), homemade goodies, juices, more milk, and even fresh farm eggs for us all. I couldn't wait to get home and show Andy the 2 dozen fresh eggs God gave us! Ha!

God met us in our need so tangibly and then lavished us way beyond needs with sweet gifts, because He loves us. He's a loving Father who gives good gifts to His kids... He actually provides like that a lot- a check in the mail from random people, our gas tank lasting entire trips when math would say that's impossible, free seminary classes, free cleaning supplies, and an annual family pass to Disney with spare gift card for park food, are all examples from this year alone!

I'm refreshed today in joyful hope that Jesus is most certainly the true treasure my heart longs for (not the comfort of "healthy" finances) and that God is so loving and generous. He provides all our needs and then gives richly and lavishly above that because of His great love. So I'm filled again with excitement as I read the anticipation of Jesus coming and know that His coming provided my salvation... and serves to daily remind me that ALL the promises of God are true and find their "yes" in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

4 Advent Nights

One new thing I wanted to add into our school day this season is a weekly advent event/craft/ reading to engage in looking back at the prophets who proclaimed the Messiah was coming and show how Jesus fulfilled that and to look forward to when He'll come again in full reign on earth. I needed simple, since we're in kindergarten, but engaging, because I'd like it to become a tradition in school years to come.

My friend Virginia Knowles has a wealth of knowledge and love for Christ and does an awesome job pointing her kids to Jesus. She shared many of her Christmas traditions on her blog and I found our weekly "look back and see Jesus" time there. She shared an awesome and simple 4 night family advent blogpost. You could do this in a four day period or once a week over four weeks.

We just did #1 this week- learning about Immanuel, "God with us" and being reminded by the Christmas lights in our neighborhood that Jesus is the light that pierced through the darkness. It has been both meaningful and FUN! You should go look at all four family nights and be blessed.

Lights reminding us the "Light of the World" has come!

Here's week #1:


Family Advent Night #1
“God is With Us – Prepare Your Heart!”

Tell your children ahead of time that you will be having a special time in the evening.  Talk about a few of the things that you will do together.   If you can think of a way for your child to participate, ask him to prepare for this, such as practicing Bible verses to read out loud, or a song on the piano, etc.  Another child might make copies of a song sheet.   You will talk about this advance notice and preparation a little later.

Scripture

  • Isaiah 7:10-14 – Immanuel promised
  • Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 -- darkness and light, a child shall be born, Wonderful Counselor
  • Isaiah 53:10-12 -- the suffering Savior
  • Isaiah 61:1-3 – the ministry of the Messiah
  • Matthew 1:18-25 – Immanuel comes
Discussion: Immanuel means “God with us” and Jesus means “The Lord saves.”  Why do we need a Savior? Because we are sinners!  Remind your children that you told them ahead of time some of what you would be doing, so they could know what to expect and how to prepare.  Relate this to how God took the time to tell his people, through the prophet Isaiah, several hundred years early, that a special messiah would be born.  He told them many details so they could know what to expect.   

Songs

“O Come, O Come Immanuel” – The lyrics of this song (originally written in Latin) are a prayer for the Messiah to come and set the people free from their misery in sin.   The tune was written in a minor key, which makes it sound melancholy to fit the lyrics.  You may wish to point this out to your older children.  What makes it a minor key?  If you play a C major chord, it will be the notes C, E and G.  If you play a C minor chord, you will use C, E flat and G.  If you sing this TO your children, have them join in on the chorus after each verse. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocomocom.htm

“Joy to the World” – The lyrics of this song are an answer to the lyrics in the last one.  The Messiah has come, so we can rejoice.   What can we do to prepare room in our hearts for God?http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/o/joyworld.htm

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” – God has come to us, but each of us must come to him in faith. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocomeayf.htm

Handel’s Messiah – play a selection such as “For Unto Us a Child is Born” (which is from Isaiah 9) and tell your children how George Frederic Handel wrote a whole concert using verses from Isaiah that prophesied about the Messiah.

Activity

Drive around through different neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights.   Remind your children that Jesus came to light up the dark world.  We should be lights in the world, too, if we have Jesus in us.

Again, I encourage you to check out her full post and her blog in general. She has so much wisdom!

Friday, December 2, 2011

What's a Jesse Tree?

I've heard several friends mention that they make a "Jesse Tree" each Christmas and i had NO clue what that was. Ha! So I looked it up. The tree gets it's name from a passage in Isaiah:  “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.”- Isaiah 11:1-2 So, it's a tree that points to Jesus as the fulfilled Messiah.

People do all sorts of different versions and it's fun to see how families remember. Some people find cute toys/trinkets that remind them of certain aspects of Him (like a small toy fish to remember His miracles, toy tools since he was a carpenter, nails and a cross to remember His death, etc..) Others have a more formal tree with actual glass ornaments and different Scripture painted on them.

This year, we are doing one that just seemed so fun and kid-like, but with great biblical teaching. It's a 25 day paper ornament project that the boys will cut out, glue on a background, and color and then we can hang them on our tree. It's all free printables and Scripture already laid out, from the Christmas your way blog and seems so super fun.

If your looking for a new and easy way to point little hearts towards Jesus this month, go check it out:
http://christmas.yourway.net/jesse-tree-ornaments/