Friday, October 29, 2010

A Place of Grace

(Mary and Evie, playing in the leaves)

Several years ago, I read a book by Susan Hunt called "Your Home: A Place of Grace". As I read through that book, page by page, my heart began to break. It was speaking directly to me, had been written for me, I was sure. And as I turned each page, tears clouded my sight, until I could only lay it down in my lap and cry out to my Father. "O Father, please, please make our home a place of grace. Do whatever it takes to change this family and this home to become a lovely place that glorifies You."

Little did I know that not only would my loving Father hear this heart's cry, but He would answer that plea. And it wasn't going to be fun.

Backtrack a few years before that. I was participating in a women's Bible study at my church. We were watching dvd's and following along in a book. To my best recollection, the speaker was Beth Moore. I am not even really sure about that. But, one day, during that study time, she spoke to me. Right at me. And I have never forgotten what she was talking about.

She was using the illustration that Jesus used about the grape vine and the reason for pruning. I remember she talked about the process of pruning the vines, cutting the plants back till there was almost nothing left, burning the cut off branches, and then waiting. Waiting for the growth. Waiting for the bloom. Waiting for the fruit.

(Cari and Evie)

Now, fast forward to a year ago, this month. Peak into the windows of my home. What do you see? You will see me weeping. You will see my husband weeping. You will see us clinging to each other for support and encouragment as never before. See my children. See the anger and resentment on their faces. See their disappointed looks at the hard choices my husband and I had to make.

Fast forward again. What do you see now? You see a mother with her heart broken. You see a father with a firm determination to do what he believes is right. You see the same couple, clinging, crying, praying. You see some of the children have changed their minds and are a bit more settled. You see some that have not.

Fast forward again and you will find more sorrow. You will find a woman so broken, so bowed under the weight of all that is happening she doesn't believe she will ever stand upright again. You will see that she chooses to trust her Father and she chooses to thank Him for these circumstances, knowing He is Sovereign, but the agony and pain of it seems more than she can bear. You will find a very sick husband, unable to do anything for himself. You will find a rebellious child here and there. You will find very little harmony, grace or peace in this home.

You see, the end of this month marks the end of a year that has been the hardest one yet. This year, we have faced scandal, we have faced vicious rumors, we have dealt with rebellion, we have dealt with lies, we have dealt with people who sought to tear our family apart, limb by limb. For a while, we thought those people had won, through their deceit, through their arrogance, through their outright sin.

But, fast forward to the present. You know what you will find? You will discover, upon close scrutiny, that we have been pruned by the Gardener. Oh, it hurt. He took shears with unmeasurable strength and cut here, trimmed there, until there was hardly any of the old plant left. Then, He waited. And do you know what happened? We grew. We bloomed. And now, we are starting to see the fruit.

Wanna guess what the fruit is? Do you? Do you?

Our home, a place of grace. Truly. I didn't think it was possible. I had given up hope. We have daughters who love each other, help each other, work together, laugh together, pray together. We have a momma and a papa who have fallen in love all over again, with a deeper, more intimate, more meaningful love. We have parents and children who laugh together more often than not. We have a family that is working together, playing together, laughing together and loving each other.

Is the pruning done? I seriously doubt it. Will there be no more pain? I can pretty much guarantee it. And, like my dearest friend in the world says, (and you know who you are, menu! ~wink~) had I known it would take all that to get to where we are, I most likely would have begged God to not take us through that. But, we have come through it and we are more blessed for it.

Dear ladies, I write this to you because I know so many of you are struggling, you are hurting, you aren't sure how much more you can take. Be encouraged. This may be a pruning time in your life but know that in the end, you will be more beautiful for it.

I encourage you to get out your Bibles and read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. Particularly, verse 11 starts with this: "He has made everything beautiful in its time."

I am praying for you, dear friends. I hope that you will be encouraged, that you will know that there is a purpose and plan, that you will trust that God always gives fish and bread not serpents and stones, and that you will see that you are becoming more beautiful.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some good thoughts for the day...

Here's a link to a good reminder about our responsibilities to our families.



Monday, October 25, 2010

Emotions: Love

(This is our kitty, Smidgeon. She was enjoying Evie's reading time the other day. Put her right to sleep!)

I am continually amazed at how God works in our lives. I Peter 3:4 reminds us that one of the goals we should aim for is to have a gentle and quiet spirit. Years ago, I began to ask God to give me just such a spirit. Little did I know that in my stubborn arrogance, I would have to be wrung through a wringer washer in order for this to start to become a reality for me! But in the process of learning, the Lord directed me toward what it takes to gain that quiet spirit.

One of the places in Scripture that became my mantra was in Colossians 3:12-14. There is so much to say of these verses, but for today, I will focus on verse 14. "And over all these virtues put on LOVE, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (NIV, emphasis mine)

Another is I Corinthians 13:3, the last part of the verse, "but (if I) have not LOVE, I gain nothing." (NIV, emphasis mine)

And finally, I John 3:18 "Dear children, let us not LOVE with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (NIV, emphasis mine)

Did you know that love is a choice? I mean, I have heard many times, and I continually tell my children that love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling, but rather something we choose to do whether we feel like it or not. And for the most part, that is true. However, I didn't realize that in saying it this way, I was making love a chore, kind of like doing the dishes after every meal. You do them, whether you feel like it or not.

I love my husband. Now, some days, I LOVE my husband. Other days I...(sigh)... love him. Once in a while, that love is a chore. And, unfortunately, he knows it. But what would happen if we proved our love with actions like I John mentions? What if, instead of loving my husband whether I feel like it or not, I simply chose to be madly in love with him? What if I chose to be delighted to see him, I listened with eyes wide open looking only at him? What if I smiled at him when I saw him or winked and caused my eyes to twinkle at him? What would that do for him?

Recently, the Lord has opened my eyes to men whose wives either love them as a chore, something they 'must' do, or worse yet, whose wives pick, belittle, ignore or publicly mock them. I see men who are treated with contempt and sarcasm. I see men, brave men, strong men, capable men who walk with their shoulders hunched, exasperation in their eyes because that ONE woman who vowed to love him and honor him, till death do us part, has chosen to love him as a chore and his life is miserable. He walks around defeated.

Contrast that with a man whose wife loves him cheerfully, adoringly and willingly. He walks with a light step, has all the confidence in the world that come what may, He will conquer it!!

Yesterday, my Pastor made a point about why you choose to marry someone. The modern concept of "he meets my needs" is common, but unacceptable for the Christian woman. The Pastor made the point that we should be doing everything in our power to be meeting HIS needs. (The effects of this, by the way, can be quite wonderful! ;-) I took this a step farther, and asked myself, why did I choose this man to marry? Oh yeah, his good looks and fine build certainly helped my choice, but over the years, I have come to hold the verse in Psalms dear to my heart that says, "God puts the lonely in families." (Psalm 68:6) Because in our situation, my hubby joined a ready made family of 5 girls and their momma, I have been blessed with the perspective that enables me to want to go beyond "love" to bless and encourage my husband, to laugh with him, to play with him, to be with him. And what a joy he is to me in return when I am loving him with my actions and not just in words.

So, you might be wondering how this helps us toward our goal of a "gentle and quiet spirit"? It works like this, when we love our husbands in a way that helps them to feel secure and safe, it flows over to our children, to our neighbors, to our extended family, and so forth. And when we work to fill our homes with love, our hearts begin to fill with joy, peace, contentment and gentleness. It is a stepping stone toward the ultimate goal. And, without love, you have nothing.

Ladies, would you choose to LOVE your husbands today? Would you choose to love them completely, happily, thoroughly? The effects may surprise!

Have a blessed day,

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Best Place for Sarcasm

(The top half of a wooden crate shelf in my foyer.)

According to the Noah Webster dictionary:

Sarcasm: A keen reproachful expression; a satirical remark or expression, uttered with some degree of scorn or contempt; a taunt; a gibe.

Sarcasm. It has become the cornerstone of our society. It's what sitcoms are made of, it's how we respond to the ridiculous, the obvious, our husbands, our children, our neighbors, our friends. It permeates nearly every conversation at some point. It's sad.

If you are sarcasm free, I salute you. Honestly. I am not being sarcastic. I still find myself, at times, giving a "satirical remark" when a kind response, or a sweet response could serve better.

The thing is, as we see in the definition above, that a sarcastic remark is usually uttered with scorn, contempt, haughtiness even. We tend to use sarcasm to put someone in their place, to show how stupid their comment or question was, to belittle, to quiet them. I wonder what would happen if we instead chose to be sincere, to be loving, to be gracious in our speech. Would we see a change in our homes?

Ephesians 4: 29 says this (NIV) "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

How, I wonder, does sarcasm play into this admonition? If we look at the second phrase of the verse, we see that our words should be helpful for building others up. Does your sarcastic, caustic response to your husband build him up? How about to your children?

The third phrase says, "that it may benefit those who listen." When your child asks you the same question for the third or fourth time, do you answer in a way that benefits her? Do you realize the value of her uncluttered heart and sweetly, lovingly answer her, again? Or do you fill her mind and heart with fear and confusion, causing her to think she is upsetting you, that she doesn't deserve your respect, that she is less of a person or lesser in importance than you are?

I wonder if part of the reason that we seem unable to hold the hearts of our children is because sarcasm is so common in our interaction with them? I wonder if the reason we have so many dysfunctional families is because we don't speak to people with kindness? I wonder if the reason we have so many unfaithful husbands is because we don't speak to them with respect?

The first phrase of that verse says that we should not let ANY unwholesome words come out of our mouths. If we truly understand what sarcasm is, then I assume we are able to properly identify it as unwholesome. It builds up no one. It benefits no one. It tears down. It destroys. It belittles.

(The bottom half of the shelf you saw above.)
So, where is the best place for sarcasm? There is no best place. It is best avoided, taken out of our lives, thrown away, gotten rid of. Permanently.
Ladies, would you pray with me, that God would work in our hearts to help us to remove this unwholesome speech from our hearts and minds. For some of us, it is so deeply ingrained, that it will take nothing less than the power of God to remove it. But if we are going to take a stand in this society, to be a light on a hill, to be salt in this world, we need to start with how we speak to each other. We need to be willing to let our conversations always be filled with grace. And we need to start here. Today. In our own homes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Place Like Home...

(A view of my bedroom. Not perfect, but cozy.)

This past weekend, I clocked about 26 hours of travel time between West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. I saw a lot of beautiful sights with blue skies and colorful foliage, deer standing at dusk in the fields beside the roads I travelled, geese and ducks resting in ponds between migration flights. What a pretty weekend.

(An old glass lamp and candle, both given to me by various family members.)
I saw many beautiful houses in what used to be some farmer's pasture. These houses were large, modern structures meant to "demonstrate" a family's wealth and status. But those houses were not impressive. Oh, to the majority of those passers-by, they could have been impressive, but to me, they were a sad reality of where we have come as a society.

(Old plates and cups, dried beans in jars and some of my many cookbooks.)
One neighborhood in particular lay in the path of a hill and many trees which happened to be blocking the rays of the setting sun. It was about 4:30 pm, and without exception, every house was dark inside. There were no lights in the windows, no sign of life within. They appeared cold, dark, forbidding almost.

(Glassware and doilies from family members on a dry hutch given to me by my mother.)
I wondered about the families that lived in these houses. I assumed they were typical, modern American families. Both parents presumably work outside the home, their 2.5 children attend school, sports, music, dance and other extra-curricular activities. This house is used as a "base" of operation, where one goes to shower, sleep, maybe eat a quick meal before heading out to the next frenetic activity.

( A piece of my textile art with a display of teacups and saucers, all from thrift stores.)
I guess the thing that bothered me most is the impression of "home" that the children in this society are getting. Rarely do you find mothers home before their children, with dinner simmering on the stove, maybe fresh bread or cookies coming out of the oven. Is there a candle lit somewhere, soft music swelling in the background? Is there time for a snuggle and story before Daddy gets home?
(An old wooden crate holding various knick-knacks hung on one wall in the kitchen.)
I told my husband this morning that I am a "freak of nature" in this modern world. But more than anything, I want to be here to give my children a sense of "home". I want them to have roots that penetrate their very hearts, making it impossible to get away from those treasures we all long for, even if we do so secretly. I want my children to go out into the world and to be home-sick. Not so that they are crippled and can't escape my apron strings, but so that they will be driven to provide a similar home for their own families.

(The mantle in the living room. Everything here was either given to me or I found at a thrift store.)
I want to provide a "Place of Grace" to my family. I don't ever expect to make the front of "House Beautiful" or to earn some fantastic reality show on HGTV. It's not even about that. It's about providing a place of comfort, beauty, warmth, love, peace and protection from the world. It's about doing the best I can with the resources God has given me to create an environment that is pleasing to the Lord. It's about making sure my family has the best...the best of my love, the best of my time, the best of my prayers, the best of my teaching, the best of my discipling.
(A hoosier recently given to me by my Aunt, with more teacups, saucers, and pretty plates that I have been collecting from thrift stores.)

Ladies, could I offer you some advice? Be willing to stand against the push and pull of society. Be willing to make your house a home in every sense of the word. Don't allow the "status quo" to force your house to become a "base of operations" but do everything in your power to make your home, well... a home.
With all my hopes for you,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Again, with the trying...

This has been a crazy year for us. We have had times of heartbreak, times of illness, times of quiet contemplation, times filled with crazy, hair-raising, non-stop activity, times of remodeling, times of tears, times of laughter, times of just wondering.

Now, we are facing the end of another year. Interestingly enough, I had posted back in January about my desire to be more diligent with this blog. But, God had other plans. In the meantime, I read, did some praying, searching and wondering. I have grown much this past year, and now feel ready to be back to sharing.

I have learned many things this year, about what is important, what really matters, who I am in the Lord, and part of His purpose for my life. I am certain I have many more things to learn. But, this is where I am, here, now.

I hope, as I did before, that this blog can be a help, a blessing, an inspiration and a joy to those who choose to read it. My heart's desire is to be more like Him, and that will be shown through my service to my husband, my children and my home. I don't expect to be well known, considered a great writer, an inspirational speaker, or whatever many people blog for. I do want to be used by the Lord. I am getting to the point where I am one of those "elder women" who should be teaching the "younger women" about loving the Lord, your husband, your children, your home, to be diligent, thoughtful, prudent and wise.

I ask you to bear with me, as I share my heart. I hope to be consistent, but I may not be. So, I ask that you be patient with me. I am simply a wife/mother/home keeper who doesn't have a lot of time. But, I do care about you, my readers. I do have a heart for young women who are misled, confused and unsure of themselves. I do desire to see you grow in maturity, in love and in grace to be the women you were created to be.

Thanks for sticking with me,