Friday, February 29, 2008

Those Pesky Have-To's

I hate tax time. I tend to put all my preparations off until the last possible minute. Today, we have a 3:00 appointment to get them done professionally, and I am just now getting everything together! How ridiculous is that!! It's not like I don't know April 15th is fast approaching just as it does year after year after year. At any rate, I am now finished compiling all the information and will be glad to hand it over to someone much more qualified than myself to make sense of it all. The best part is that we will more than likely get a nice refund check for all the inconvenience!

There seems to be a myriad of those have-to things every day. Taxes are the worst, by far, but the rest of them aren't so great either. For instance.....laundry comes immediately to mind. No matter how many hours a day I spend drudging away in my too-small laundry room, the next day it is all there facing me again. Maybe we have entirely too many clothes. Maybe we change them too often. (well, daily is probably not too often!) I don't know what the answer is. I just know I will be there in front of that washer and dryer today just like I was yesterday and just like I will be tomorrow.

Another have-to thing is work. Not that I am lazy in any way. I think it is actually impossible for a work-at-home mom to be lazy. But, when you throw in the homeschooling, the housecleaning (and don't forget the laundry, ugghh!!), who has time for work! My issue is that I try to work while the kids are in and out of the room interrupting me every other second about something "urgent" to them. The struggle comes because I would prefer to be giving them my full attention, but instead, I am trying to work. How can that be right? To me it isn't, but at this point in time, I have no choice. It is a have-to.

One thing I truly have-to do every day is a joy to me; That is to pick up my Bible and spend time with Jesus. It is a have-to because I cannot survive without it. No one makes me do it. I am aware, though, that if I don't, all the other have-to's will be entirely overwhelming to me. I would certainly collapse under the weight of them if I was not supported by a relationship with my Creator. Spending time in his Word gives me the strength to face all the mundane stuff in my life.

My husband, children and my home bring me much joy. The upkeep of them does not. Through my daily time with God, I find just what I need to face those challenges in any given day. I find ways to get through the have-to's joyfully so I can REALLY enjoy my family.

If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed today, grab a cup of coffee and your Bible. Try to find a quiet place to meet with your Savior. He is the professional that can make sense of it all. He can take the mess that we have compiled and turn it into something worthwhile and beautiful. Pass through the inconveniences with Him and you will find something good waiting for you.

Psalm 29:11- " The Lord gives strength to His people; The Lord blesses His people with strength."

Colossians 3:16-17- " Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And, whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him."

Write down in your journal what seems to be overwhelming you today.

Ask God for some ways to pass through the have-to's with joy.

Write a prayer thanking God for all the have-to's in your life. Remember, without them you would be lonely and unproductive....Unable to make a difference. Our have-to's are a gift from God. They make us stronger.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Decision Making 101

The first scripture I ever memorized is Proverbs 3:5-6. It says: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and He will direct your paths." Those verses have served me well over the years. Many times, I have learned the hard way that my own understanding is usually far, far from the wisdom I have needed to decipher the trials and tribulations of life. On my own, I can't accomplish much of anything. But, with God, the possibilities are endless!!

Decision making is no different. When we are faced with a fork in the road and can't discern which path is the right one to pursue, acknowledging Christ is the best place to start. He wants us to desire His will for every decision. Most times, our will does not line up with His; not if we follow our first instinct. We almost always will choose the easiest path, the most obvious path, the shortest path, or the one that seems to be the most pleasurable. His path for us does not usually fall into one of those cut and dry categories.

How is His will determined? Well, it's not very easy sometimes, but it is do-able. Matthew 6:10 plainly states that God's desire is for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done on the earth. Basically that is telling us that first and foremost, whatever the final decision is, it needs to bring glory to Him and it needs to enhance His kingdom. That one verse lets us know that finding out what God wants is the most important part of our decision.

Right now, my husband and I are faced with some very difficult decisions concerning the well-being of his 76 year-old mother. She is currently in the hospital suffering from the effects of multiple strokes and is in need of full-time care in the near future. That is a hard place in which to find yourself; making decisions that will effect the remainder of your mother's life. I guess, sooner or later, every person with an aging parent will be in a similar situation. For us, this is our first time and it is heart-wrenching to say the least.

We are constantly asking ourselves how we can best handle this-or-that. What would she want us to do? What is the best solution for her? Why do we even have to be in such a situation? Why is this so hard? Traveling down this undesirable road has often left us with a less-than-joyful attitude. As I have studied God's Word looking for solutions, some of the words that have leaped right off the page have been in Romans 12:2. Renewing our minds, focusing on Christ and His Word; those things will keep our attitudes in check as we decide which path to take.

If you find yourself facing some hard decisions (as we all will eventually), all you have to do is pick up your Bible. In it, you will find not only the answers, but the right questions to ask yourself.

-Will my decision show God's love and build another person up or is it for my own selfish desires?
( Romans 15: 2-3, 1 Corinthians 10:24, 1 Corinthians 10:33)

-Will my decision honor the Word of God?
(1 Corinthians 10:31, James 1:22, Titus 1:9)

-Will my decision glorify God?
( Psalm 64:10, John 17:10, Ephesians 1:11-12)

-Will my decision make me a more effective witness for Christ?
( Isaiah 43:10, 1John 4:12-15, 1Timothy 4:12)

-What is the right thing to do?
(Psalm 119:128, Galatians 6:9-10)

Facing difficult decisions is something none of us look forward to, it is just a part of life that we all have to deal with. God's Word will never fail to give us the answers we need, refresh our joy and calm our spirits during the process.

Psalm 119:28 offers the remedy for the heaviness we experience in our hearts during the tough times; "My life dissolves and weeps itself away for heaviness; raise me up and strengthen me according to (the promise of) Your word."

Psalm 119:130 says: "The entrance and unfolding of Your words give light; their unfolding gives understanding (discernment and comprehension) to the simple."

He will NEVER leave us wondering which path to follow. Acknowledge Him first, He will illuminate the way and you can rest peacefully when you know you have made a God-honoring decision.

Leave a comment and let me know how this article may have helped you today!
May God Bless you always,

Character First

This is my first year "officially" homeschooling my youngest son, Austin. I have homeschooled my oldest all the way through and he will be graduating this year. It has been a wonderful journey and I am looking forward to the continuation of the experience for many years to come. Though, I believe this second time around the block may prove to be a bit more of a challenge.
Austin has just recently been diagnosed with ADHD. He is such a loving and thoughtful child and this whole ordeal has been rather dis-heartening for our entire family. His main issues are impulsiveness and hyper-activity. He also has some anger management problems. Any type of formal teaching has been somewhat difficult and I have had to re-invent my teaching methods in order to better serve him. That's one of the wonderful perks of homeschooling; Building the education around the child instead of vice-versa. It works so much better that way.
Sometimes I think Austin may be smarter than me! That is a little scary. He is a very deep thinker for such a small boy. He ponders the things of life in such an intriguing manner that he quizzes me on things I really have to ponder myself before I can give him an educated answer! That has proven to be a good thing, though. I am somewhat of a deep thinker myself. I guess he gets it honest! All his questions leave me searching and finding some pretty enlightening ways to respond. Along the way, I learn quite a lot myself.
I had one of those light bulb moments the other day. You know how it is; you have a revelation about a certain thing at a time when you aren't even particularly thinking about it. Those are what I call "Thresholds". Doors that God leads me right through when I least expect it. I had been struggling with how to best deal with the academic aspects of Austin's homeschool day. After being undecided about what direction to take, I just took a few days off and Austin and I just did fun things together. We did Bible studies, art, watched some educational videos, went to the library, had some long conversations, stuff like that. All of a sudden that "Threshold" opened up and I heard the words "Character First". Not audibly, but they were in my mind so clearly, I knew they were words from my Father.
That's it!! Now I have a clear direction! Austin is only five years old. And, a mind-wandering male at that! Academics don't have to be top priority at this time in his life! Especially if that is stealing his joy (and mine, too). What an eye-opener! I think in the back of my mind, I had that feeling all along, but hearing it directly from my (and Austin's!) Creator kind of gave me the permission I needed to relax and work on the important thing, Austin's character. I can stop depending on medication (which hasn't worked anyway) and trying to put him in a box and make him act like other kids do. God made him to be who he is and hand-picked us to be his family. How wonderful! This ADHD thing is not a burden after all! It is a gift! A gift that, paired with the blessing of homeschooling, can help me to discover who Austin really is in Christ. A Gift that allows me (his hand-picked mom) to develop and guide him into God's plan for his life! My husband agreed wholeheartedly when I shared my new insights with him. That was another confirmation for me right there!
I praise God for giving me this child later into my life. There are many advantages to having a child as an older woman, but one I can see clearly now is that I am at a stage myself where I have experienced many things. I am more open to hearing God's voice and obeying what He tells me to do, in spite of my own doubts and fears. Even in spite of what other people may think or say. I have learned that God's way is ALWAYS the best, and if I obey this time and get Austin's character in line with God's word, all the rest of the things in his life will fall into place. No struggle. Granted, I know life will never be perfect, but I sure would rather do it God's way. That's a lot closer to perfection than my own way, for sure.
My love for my children is so great I can't fathom that God loves them even more. But, that strong invincible love we all feel for this special child along with this perfect layout straight from God's word will be my new lesson-plan from now on. He has shown it to us all in Colossians 3:12-17, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And, whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
We are thankful for Austin. We can forgive Austin for his mistakes. We can forgive ourselves for the many mistakes we have made as well-meaning parents. We will all remain clothed with the virtues of God and peace will rule in the lives of this family! And, it will all be accomplished in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who we are so thankful to for giving us this blessed experience! Austin is chosen by God and we will honor and appreciate how God created him. And that, my friends, is building the education around the child.
Hope you all have an "enlightening" day in the Lord!

Warning Signs

Well, I went to the Dr. today for a physical. Definitely not my favorite thing to do. But, a necessity none-the-less. I have had a feeling for the last month that they would tell me some things I did not want to hear. Lo and behold, they did.
My dear husband, health nut that he is, has been telling me for the last year or so that my eating habits are terrible, and they are. I crave sweets like they are going out of style. Trouble is, I eat what I crave whether it is good for me or not. I do not exercise. I am tired all the time. I have fibromyalgia. Now, today, I find out my cholesterol is high. Not extremely high, but higher than it should be. My Dr. also said if I did not lay off of the soft drinks, I would be a diabetic in no time.
I used to walk about three miles a day. Last year I had surgery in October, (the third surgery in as many years), and I never got back into the habit of it. I do miss it. As a busy homeschool mom, I enjoyed the early morning solitude of that quiet walk. It gave me time alone with the Lord and time to focus on His voice. It also kept me in a positive frame of mind. My energy level was higher, too. It even kept me from having the occasional anxiety attack. My husband rides a bike; sometimes 20 miles a day. He has even ridden to work which is about 28 miles away from home (and back, too!). If I tried that, I would have to be brought home in an ambulance!
All this news today got me to thinking about why on earth we do not heed the warning signs. They are always there. Physically and spiritually. God has laid out for us in His word the "dos & don'ts" for everything we face in this life. My deepest desire is reflected perfectly in Psalm 40: 8. It says," I desire to do your will O Lord, Your law is within my heart". I know it is His will that I should prosper in this life and be healthy. Of course that is my desire as well. So, why do I go on and follow my every whim when it comes to my diet? Proverbs 3:7-8 says, " Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones". I know it is not wise for me to indulge like I do with my dietary habits, it's just that those blasted Dr. Peppers taste soooo good!
What does God say to that? "I warned you when you felt secure, but you said,'I will not listen!' ( Jeremiah 22:21) Yep! Holding on to that nice cold soft drink may be a security thing for me. Who knows. Maybe it's like a kid's blankie. I just need to hang on tight and, instead of a snuggle, I sneak in a sip every now and then all throughout the day. I have refused to listen to those warning signs; my husband's voice, my tiredness, my incessant cravings for sugar. They've been there all along, but I just shrugged them off. Now I have to pay the consequences for my disobedience.
I have a feeling it's not too late to make a turn around. My sugar is not too high yet. So, if I do something now maybe I can avoid the diabetes thing and get the cholesterol down to normal, too. I am going to strive to be diligent in disciplining myself and what I eat from now on. It won't be pleasant, I'm sure, but worthwhile. Hebrews 12:11 says, " No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it".
I think I have seen the light. I could sure use the peace of feeling good, being positive and having lots of energy! Now that I know what the culprit is, (I think I really did all along), I can do something about it. Maybe next time I go to the Dr. (Not Dr. Pepper, mind you), I can tell him what he wants to hear and he will be happy I have heeded the warning signs! I am beginning to re-train myself!
I would start walking again first thing tomorrow morning, but it is supposed to be soooo cold! BRRRRR! Oh mercy, I think I need your prayers!