Tragedy & Joy

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I wanted to write some kind of update awhile ago, we’ve just been so busy or I’ve been distracted – or distracting myself.  I don’t even know what to write now really… so much has happened in just one month.

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I think I’ll try to put it into bullet points what we’ve done or has happened in these past 4 weeks.  Sorry it will probably read pretty strange…

  • We had our adorable daughter, everything went well as far as the surgery.
  • The recovery had a hiccup when I started swelling in my right leg, and then the left leg… I called my doctor, and it was thought to be maybe the anesthesia.  After my milk supply came in and was pretty established, I took a couple of diuretic pills (“water pills”) to flush out the swelling fluid – and it worked well.  Apparently the “postpartum swelling” can be a big issue, and after we got home I began to look like I was 6 months pregnant again the swelling had gotten so bad.  This had never happened with our other two, but the diuretics worked fast and I ended up looking normal again.
  • Our little one wanted to breastfeed so often – every hour for 5 nights straight – that I actually ended up getting Mastitis in that very first week!!!!!  LOL  I didn’t even know you could get mastitis that quickly!  It was very painful but a bit hilarious – thank God for antibiotics!
  • In only the 2nd week of her life, 2 of our officers were shot when contacting a felon.  They were shot right when they stepped out of their vehicle.  One was shot in the face and the other in the chin, the former ended up dying and the latter dragged his partner to safety even after having been shot.  It was so traumatic, and both were about my husband’s age.
  • I’m in a wive’s group that supports our husband’s in their career, one I’ve blogged about here.  I’ve become an officer that deals with events – the coordinating and planning, and since all of the other group officials were either on vacation or unable to come, I had the task of coordinating getting donations for desserts, wives to volunteer, and serving the people at the funeral.  A police funeral is typically a devastating ordeal, but with hundreds to sometimes 1,000’s of officers from around the country showing up to pay their respects to the fallen officer.  Coming together like a family is so appreciated.  Everything about the funerals, though, is physically and emotionally draining and tortuous.  From volunteering for hours, to listening to the family pour out their hearts to us, to serving the army of Police Officers who have come who need encouragement, too… it is painful.  The last funeral before this I cried so much I had to actually go and completely redo my makeup before we had to serve the 1,000’s of guests.  We are in a war.  We lose officers almost every week or other week now.
  • Since I had to bring our 2 week old to the funeral to lead the volunteers, I kept having to disappear to breastfeed.  One time when I was tucked away in a tiny section of the ladies’ room where they provided couches to sit while you nurse, one of the officers who came to the funeral sat down next to me – exhausted – and started to talk.  She was part of the Honor Guard – which is the official name for the group of officers who go to the memorial services and funerals around the U.S.  She was a Sergeant, and from our city.  She knew the officer who had died that day 😥 .  For some reason, relaxing in the hidden corner of the restroom on the couch with me, she felt comfortable enough to let me know how tired of all this she was – how she felt she needed a break, that many of them do, from all these relentless funerals.  All these senseless assassination-style deaths.  I tried to encourage her and let her know how much we appreciate the Honor Guard and her love for these officers’ families.  But I could see it, too, when I was serving many of the officers face to face – they are so tired of seeing these decent men and women killed.  The collective Honor Guard are some of the best people, the ones who travel to show support and give encouragement to the families in need, but I’m starting to see in their faces just how hard this is on them emotionally to be constantly going to another funeral every other week or so.
  • Police deaths have spiked to 39% in 2017.  Again, it feels like we are in a war.  Like our husbands are deployed everyday that they go into their shift.  At the same time, it feels like we’re not alone.  The police community as a whole, is a safe place to show our emotions to each other.  At the last funeral when I was crying almost uncontrollably, one of the older Honor Guard officers came up to me and hugged me – it meant so much, but I felt so sorry that I knew I was making him feel pain, too.  I could tell that my tears almost made him cry 😥  and I don’t want to add more pain to these officers.  It was so touching though, that a perfect stranger would come to not only support us, but even hug one of the emotional wives there behind the counter.
  • I haven’t written about this myself before… probably because I’d have to write it in bullet points like this.  The emotions are hard for even me to put into words.
  • We had a second funeral for one of our officers who passed away from cancer.  We were thankful that he didn’t lose his life in the line of duty, but it still felt like an added insult to an injury.  The funeral was only a couple of days after the first.
  • Even in all this tragedy, my husband and I were invited to one of his favorite Police Academy instructor’s retirement party.  It was actually a wonderful time celebrating this man my husband looks up to and learned from.  We were able to get my mom to watch our boys so it was almost like a date night together with our tag along baby girl.  At the end of the night, his wife let me know they had felt almost guilty holding a celebration like this after all the recent tragedies – her husband had wondered if he should have cancelled it.  I told the wife that of course they should have had it!  It was good to celebrate something positive even in the midst of this.  Everyone there was focusing on the hilarious stories he had, looking at his adorable pictures of when he was young and in charge of the streets, and enjoying celebrating with him the end of a great career.  We needed that.  He did, but we all did in a way.

We’ve also just been enjoying time together as a family.  I’ve had my own thoughts of feeling so much joy when looking at our daughter, and then guilt that I’m feeling that way when our city (and officers) are enduring another tragedy.  It was nice having my husband off for a month… he missed his work and the excitement, but he had fun taking the boys on adventures and us all going out as a family for hikes and walks in the parks close by.

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The Proverbs 31 Woman’s Stewardship of Her Talents

“She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants.”

Proverbs 31:24

Welcome back if you’re still following this series of posts about the Proverbs 31 woman!  It’s been a lonnng time since the last post, but it’s been good for me to take a break in order to fully process all the things happening regarding the police and violence against them in our country.  I could write many posts just about all the emotions I went through during this time, but I may save that for another lesson series in the future.  For a few more weeks, this blog has the purpose of focusing on what God sees as beautiful, feminine character.  We’re still zeroing-in on the virtues and powerful example of the woman talked about in Proverbs 31.  For all the things that have happened during the course of writing this little series, it has still continued to prevail and change lives.  I’ve had the wonderful experience of getting to hear how God’s used these posts to help open up women’s minds to new ways of looking at what truly matters, and it is so humbling to know that God is using these posts for His purpose in blessing others.

When I was researching for these verses, the image illustrated in my imagination was that of her going about their society, taking her merchandise to the ports in order to sell them to the merchants, walking through the markets buying the food she selectively picks out from them as we saw in verse 14.  She moves through their city, going about doing good for her family, dressed in fine linens and yes, this strange and seemingly worldly choice of extravagant purple.  She is a walking advertisement for the beauty that her hands create!

Let’s dive in fully to the meanings behind this verse.

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She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants –

Another look into our virtuous woman’s talented mind for business!  The word, “merchants,” used here, is literally “Cananites,” and it is talking about the Phoenician merchants.

“She delivered these goods to the merchants or traders.  These were Phoenician traders, according to the meaning of the Hebrew word.  Phoenicians were known for their trade and commerce and their skill as a seafaring people. Phoenicia’s two major ports were Tyre and Sidon.

The virtuous woman provided a source of income for her family through her business. “When other women impoverish their husbands by buying, she enriches her husband by selling those valuable commodities for which there is a constant demand” (George Lawson, Commentary on Proverbs, page 567).

“It is only modern pride and laziness which has introduced the idea that it is inconsistent with the dignity of a fine lady to make profit of her own manufactures.  This virtuous woman, although her husband sits among the elders, does not think it a discredit, but an honor to herself, to make fine linen and girdles for sale; and the wise will praise her on account of it” (George Lawson, p. 576).” (2)

These were the same merchants she more than likely bought the purple cloth or garments, or the dye itself, from.  She would take what she was able to afford, and increase it to bless others from the work of her hands!

She used her God-given talents to financially bless her family –

The woman in Proverbs 31 is much like Tabitha in that she makes clothing and looks after the poor and needy as we’ll see in verse 20; however, unlike what we know of Tabitha, she also uses her talents to gain a financial blessing in return.  Let’s look in depth at what it means to use our gifts that God has given us in Matthew 25:14-30.

The Parable of the Talents the Master gives his servants:

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property.

15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.

17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.

18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.

But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 

What an incredible parable!  And how convicting is it that we should be taking our callings, our gifts – our purpose so seriously.  Historically, a “talent” was actually a large sum of money, however since Jesus loved to teach using parables, this was never really about the money!  Still the comparison is important to understand because of how it relates to us and our relationship with God.

Here is some history regarding the setting of His story:

The outward framework of the parable lies in the Eastern way of dealing with property in the absence of the owner. Two courses were open as an approximation to what we call investment. The more primitive and patriarchal way was for the absentee to make his slaves his agents. They were to till his land and sell the produce, or to use the money which he left with them as capital in trading. In such cases there was, of course, often an understanding that they should receive part of the profits, but being their master’s slaves, there was no formal contract.

The other course was to take advantage of the banking, money-changing, money-lending system, of which the Phoenicians were the inventors, and which at the time was in full operation throughout the Roman empire. The bankers received money on deposit and paid interest on it, and then lent it at a higher percentage, or employed it in trade, or (as did the publicani at Rome) in farming the revenues of a province. This was therefore the natural resource, as investment in stocks or companies is with us, for those who had not energy to engage in business.” (11)

The “talents” represent the gifts God’s given each of us –   

“By the talents here we are to understand gifts or endowments conferred for a spiritual end, powers of body and mind, abilities natural and acquired, health, strength, long life, understanding, judgment, memory, learning, knowledge, eloquence, influence, and authority over others, wealth, privileges, or offices, civil or religious, and indeed every power and advantage of which a good or bad use may be made.” (12)

Jesus’ particular comparison of our gifts with large lump sums of money given to us, spoke to me deeply as I’ve been researching and studying for this post.  It’s as if He wants us to look at what He’s already given us – our specific gifts, artistic abilities, talents, etc. as we would a hundred thousand dollars in the bank.  We often feel so ill-quipped for the task, so wrongly chosen!  But we forget that it’s Him who has already equipped us – if we were able to do it all on our own ability, how would He receive the glory?  Throughout the ages, God has made it His signature move to call people who never thought they’d be the right one for the job.  The surprise of having God call you to do something that you’ve never expected yourself to do is bewildering and even terrifying.  Yet He expects us to use our gifts, skills, abilities, talents, hobbies, passions, and even connections to invest them in different avenues so that we can multiply our return on those investments for His sake!  Everything we do is ultimately done for the glory of God, and can be used to further His Kingdom.  Whatever impact we have in our sphere of influence, He wants us to use it to glorify Him.  Whether it’s teaching children, teaching Bible studies, cooking, drawing, sewing clothes, taking care of little children, taking care of our own families, or painting, God has a unique plan for the gifts He’s given us.

In plain speak, this parable is calling us to take seriously the work we do to further His Kingdom.

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Whatever we do, we must do it well, and to the best of our ability because God is our Master.  It’s not acceptable to hide our talents, to squander the gifts He’s given us.  We will all be called to account at the end of our lives like the servants were, when we’ll have to answer to God for what we chose to do as stewards over our lives.  It’s incredible to think about the fact that we’ve all been given a specific blessing!  No matter who you are, no matter if you’ve realized it or not; God has a specific and glorious work for you to do for His Kingdom!

A warning against comparison –

This doesn’t mean that all our ministries will look the same, we are different parts of the Body of Christ, fitted to do drastically different works and functions.  Whatever your specific work is, be assured that it is precious and valuable in God’s sight.  The servants in the parable were given different amounts of talents, each according to their ability.  This is huge and so important to comprehend!  Some were given more gifts than others, and some less so.  One might be tempted to say that this means God isn’t fair or just – otherwise He would give everyone the same amount to work from.  In my opinion, this parable actually proves how just God is: that He only expects from us what He knows we have the ability to produce!  His fairness comes into play in that He never expected the servant with the one talent to be able to produce 10 like the first did.  He takes into account our weaknesses and humanity.  He takes into account our discipline and proven record of stewardship.  If we’re faithful over a little, He promises to give us more to be responsible for.  This is why we’re not supposed to look at another woman and compare ourselves with what she’s able to accomplish (more or less) than what we’re accomplishing in our lives.  Our focus should be on our own spiritual development and industry of our talents.

I’m curious to know what was really going on in the last servant’s mind.  Was he focusing on how he’d only been given one talent compared to the others? Did he feel disadvantaged?  Ill-equipped?  He said he was afraid of the Master judging him if he didn’t at least preserve what he’d been given stewardship over.  Isn’t that a bit like us when we say to ourselves that we don’t want that extra responsibility?  That extra liability?  When we lack faith in what God’s done for and in us?  That if we dare to step out in faith and teach that class, write that book, start a small business, invite those neighbors over, help when we can meet a need, make that first move toward whatever ministry we’re called into, we don’t even try because we may be judged a failure for it?  That was the main excuse of the last servant, but he paid dearly for it in the end!

Comparison binds us and can prevent us from fulfilling the will of God for our life.  Satan would love for us to compare ourselves to what others are given or able to do, and come up short, discouraged, and ultimately, defeated.  He wants us to have a fear of failure so that we’re never brave enough to even start!  He wants us to be the opposite of what God has planned out for our lives: Unfruitful, unproductive, not letting our lights shine, miserable, and taking longer, more painful routes than needed on our journey.

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The devastation of a missed blessing –

Now that we’ve looked at the possibilities of why the last servant chose to bury his talent rather than use it to produce more for God, let’s focus in on the end goal of why this lesson is important.  When we refuse to act on what we know God’s called us to do, when we run away from His purpose for our life, rather than embrace it whole-heartedly, when we are too insecure that God could or would ever use us, or afraid that He’ll judge us harshly if we fail along the way… we are setting ourselves up for the devastation of a missed blessing!  When we use our gifts to bless our families or the people whom God puts in our path, we are actually receiving a blessing ourselves.

It’s in the giving!

‘Well done, good and faithful servant.  

You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.

Enter into the joy of your master.

Receiving those words at the end of our life when we’ve completed this marathon race with perseverance, having not given up or given way to fear, are what we’re hoping for.  Setting our eyes on the “prize,” as Paul refers to it, helps us keep our focus and purpose clear, rejecting the weights that would pull us down, make us slower, and distract us from the path of righteousness.

 

The Proverbs 31 woman’s main ministry –

Let’s not forget what we learned about at the beginning of this series:

“Her main ministry is to do her husband good and not evil, if she succeeds at anything else, and yet fails in this area of serving her husband, she has lost everything because she’s failed to maintain the most important relationship on earth that God has given her.”

This again is so beautifully displayed within the Parable of the Talents.  Not everyone will be able to handle extra ministries around their church on top of having toddlers.  Not everyone will be able to manage a full-time business that brings in money to bless her family, and also have babies.  There are some women can do those things and do them well, but it’s my opinion they’ve been blessed with a “talent” that is rather rare, and God knew they would be a good steward over this added responsibility because of their personality type or discipline.  The more normal example to see is productiveness based on the different seasons of life, however we have to keep in mind that our main ministry is to do our husbands good (look back over that chapter if you want to refresh your memory, “good” encompasses a whole lot!).  Simply just managing to be the best wife and mother to your children may be all that you are able to handle at this time, and that is totally ok!  You’re working for God’s approval, not for another woman’s opinion on your life.  If we’re tempted to compare ourselves with someone else able to do more, we have to keep in mind the season of life we’re in, and our own particular strengths and weaknesses.  God doesn’t want to burden us down with expectations that we can’t meet, and He knows what we can and cannot do.  If He had expected the servant with the one talent to produce as much as the servant given 5 talents, our God would be a harsh and cruel Master.  But that’s not how the story goes, He is compassionate and takes into account our natural abilities and gifts when He judges how much we’re able to produce for Him.  A woman with young children may not be able to spend her time volunteering or making substantial money, but she may have just enough time to deeply study God’s word and prepare lessons to teach it to her children.  A woman in the middle of growing her family may not be able to write books and teach a woman’s Bible study, but she may be able to give to those in need when the opportunities come up, or carefully plan out how to bring extra meals when a woman in their church needs assistance.  We all need different amounts of rest and sleep, just like we all have different amounts of discipline and energy.  The most important thing is that we’re working on and cultivating the blessings and gifts God has already given to us, and doing our best to serve Him with them.

Lydia a woman faithful over her talents – 

Let’s look again to another woman from the New Testament, a rather obscure woman like Tabitha, who was yet again, another example of a real life Proverbs 31 woman.  When we looked at Tabitha, we saw a loving, kind woman who spent her time giving herself fully to mission work, and making clothing for the persecuted Christians in need and widows of Joppa.  Lydia at first glance, is so entirely opposite of Tabitha it’s striking.  This is a great example of how becoming a Proverbs 31 woman will look different for each of us, according to the plans God has for us.  It’s not known whether Tabitha was rich or poor, and some scholars have debated either way, however, Lydia, we know, was a very wealthy woman.

According to Acts 16, Lydia was a seller of that same strange, brilliant color we learned about before; the same color that the Proverbs 31 woman dressed herself in: purple.  Placed in the right region at the right time, Lydia was a resident of Thyatira, an ancient Greek city in what we now know of as modern day Turkey.  Thyatira was known for it’s many “guilds,” which were medieval associations of skilled artisans or merchants, and that often had considerable power (13).  Lydia more than likely belonged to one of Thyatira’s most powerful and influential guild, the Dyers Guild.  Because Thyatira’s waters were so perfect for dyeing, the city produced indigo, scarlet, and purple dyes, with the latter making the city famous among the region.

Again we are faced with the strange element of where the spiritual meets the secular world.  The examples of this in the Bible are always important because they teach us how to be in the world, but not of the world.  Having now studied deeply in the last chapter, the sheer status symbol of this color purple, of the wealth and secular usage behind it’s being purchased, sold, or worn, it again reminds us of what truly matters to God.  Lydia was immersed in the secular world of fashion, outward appearance, the arts, brilliant and costly dyes, and great wealth obtained from selling purple.  And yet we’re told that this woman loved God and was capable of opening her heart to him!  Let’s look at the passages to learn more about this woman:

Acts 16:12-15 (NLT)

12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God.

As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying.

15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests.

“If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

The impression Lydia made on the missionaries was so welcoming that they actually returned to her house to receive rest after their imprisonment in Philippi for preaching the gospel.  Her gift of hospitality to God’s messengers was greatly needed and appreciated!

Acts 16:40 (NLT)

40 “When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.”

Paul also writes to the believers of Philippi (Lydia being one of the prominent women of the church), in his letter written from a jail cell, at the end of his life to the Phillippians.  If you read closely, you can almost hear the affection in his words for the believers:

Philippians 1:3-10

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

Lydia’s occupation as a seller of purple might have been a “questionable” calling to the Pharisees, but we can’t deny that her simple yet powerful example has been put in the Bible for our betterment.  Blogger Heather Whidden has a unique perspective on this “unlikely meeting,”

“Consider for a moment how unlikely it is that this meeting even took place to begin with. Lydia, a seller and producer of the much-coveted color purple that can only be afforded by the wealthiest, the Roman elite, crosses paths with Paul, the most influential apostle of Christianity at a river. That’s about as likely as Billy Graham meeting Vera Wang at the local bus station. And yet, this is where God chose to open the door for the gospel to be taken to the hearts of the Roman world and beyond; in the heart of a woman who sold purple.” (14, Emphasis mine)

Because of Lydia’s unique position in society, having influence and access to multiple sellers of the dyes and clothing, as well as her belonging to the Dyer’s Guild, she would be in the perfect place to bring the gospel to people who could spread it even further through their trade.  When the Lord opened her heart after hearing Paul speak at the river, we see that she grew an immediate desire to give the gift of hospitality to the missionaries.

Let’s look at a few things in common between Lydia and our Proverbs 31 woman:

  • They both show the gift of hospitality
  • They are both godly women with whom God is pleased
  • They both are humble and pure in spirit
  • They are both dealers or sellers of the expensive purple cloth
  • They may both be women who wore this purple color in their clothing choices
  • They both use their talents to obtain wealth that they use in turn to bless others
  • They are both good stewards over their talents and skills, being mindful to use them to further God’s Kingdom

Lydia’s work brought in blessings which in turn, blessed the believers of the new church!  God used the rather secular work of one woman, who was being faithful over the stewardship He had given her, to reach many others throughout the region!  Let’s never discount the affect we can have when we choose to be productive servants, and use our gifts and talents for God’s glory to encourage others and bring them closer to His will for them!

Next we’ll be looking at how the Proverbs 31 woman’s proceeds are used to bless not only her family, but also paved the way for her to reach out to the poor (verse 20), and the needy.

 

Interesting/cited Articles –

  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. The Middletown Bible Church
  3. Matthew Poole’s Commentary
  4. Tabitha: A woman who lived for Jesus
  5. Beautiful in God’s Eyes by Elizabeth George
  6. Natural History by (Henry) Pliny the Elder
  7. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
  8. Greek Lexicon
  9. The History of Purple Cloth & Fabrics
  10. Hebrew Lexicon
  11. Elicott’s Commentary for English Readers
  12. Benson Commentary
  13. Lydia Bible Gateway
  14. The Power of Purple

Applications will be written into the individual posts during the next few weeks

Undaunted Radiance!

Paul says this is the reason we are more than conquerers in all these things, super-victors, with a joy we would not have, but for the very thing which look as if they are going to overwhelm us.

The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super-joy of going clean through it.  Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things – tribulation, distress, persecution, produce in us the super-joy; they are not things to fight.

We are more than conquerors through Him in all these things, not in spite of them, but in the midst of them.  The saint never knows the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it – “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation,” says Paul.

Undaunted radiance is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that nothing can alter.

Oswald Chambers

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When we go through periods of testing of our faith or character, the trials that can feel so crushing to our spirits, how is it that we can become “more than conquerors” in the midst of them?

The only answer I’ve found, especially recently in my own personal life, is in clinging to God, and abiding in Him daily.  

What about when we bring these things on ourselves?  How does one get over the guilt, the shame of dishonoring Christ’s reputation?

First off, even though the righteous may fall 7 times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes (Proverbs 24:26).

Satan wants to see you depressed, hurting, confused, disenchanted with God and His power in your life.

When you fall, he wants to keep you down there.  His are the mockers who watch your life, and laugh when you stumble or have calamity fall on you.  They, like him, want nothing more than to see you stop, withdraw, and disappear.  “Die a quick death.”

We are all ministers in some way to those God has allowed us to reach, and one of the ways Satan will often attack those who are serious about ministering to others, is through trials.  His end goal is to render you ineffective; to shut you up.

The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves.

Your lives are a letter written in our hearts;

everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.

2 Corinthians 3:2

Watching Plants Grow

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like in my spiritual life, I’m just watching plants grow.  I want so badly to do the right thing, to be what God wants me to be, but it amazes me how far off I feel I constantly wander off.

The exciting thing about a new year is all the possibilities to implement any new changes that need to be made.  Looking back on my failures and mishaps in 2015, a year I thought would be a relatively peaceful, quiet year, I’m so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, but also sad that it took me so long to learn them.

I’ve been reading several books and learning and growing so much!  It’s incredible to be so convicted, work to make changes, but then to feel constantly like one cannot attain that perfection of spirit.  Just as I think I’m making great progress, I find myself sliding back down again and acting in pride or getting irritated by things that are trivial and don’t matter!  It’d be comical if it wasn’t so annoying and sad.

I’m learning that I can’t do this on my own – it’s God who works in us, and in His own time, and that the more I submit myself to His will, the more He works in my spirit to make me into the creature He wants me to be.  In contrast, the more I spin my wheels trying to perfect my own spirit, the more frustrated I’ll grow and discouraged.

So I’ll stop watching plants grow, and trust that He’s doing His work and finishing what He’s started in me nearly 25 years ago.

A Screwtape Letter for the Unappreciated Mom

My Dear Wormwood,

I was thrilled to hear you have been making progress with the mother.  You have a good lead, from what I hear.  She’s feels over-worked, unappreciated, and discouraged?  I’m so glad to hear it.  If you tread carefully, this can be a great opportunity.  With the kids waking her up every hour last night, we already have an advantage.  A tired Mom makes for a more emotional Mom, and an emotional Mom is a vulnerable one.

I do have a few tips.  First, aim your best efforts at her marriage.

As you know, we cannot do much with a unified marriage.  Luckily for us, a cranky and exhausted wife can do wonders to change that.  We must convince her that her husband is no longer the friend and ally she first married.  Instead, we must reveal every sin and selfish habit, especially drawing attention to his thoughtless actions (mal-intended or not) against her.

Sometimes it’s the less obvious things, things the husband doesn’t even realize, that we can use to offend her the most.  When he comes home from work and dumps his things on the counter nearest the door (instead of hanging his coat or putting away his keys), let her think of it as a direct assault on her work as a homekeeper.  When he treks mud in with his shoes, let her think it is because he does not love her.  Such extremes of thought may seem ridiculous to you or I, but to the exhausted mortal woman, it can seem possible.  Your goal is to make her think the husband does not notice, or even better, that he does not care about her efforts at home.

Secondly, do what you can to keep her focused on her troubles and pains.  Remind her how much her back aches, how draining the children were all day, and how many undone tasks still beckon her.  Do not let her wonder what difficulties her husband faced that day or whether his back might also be aching.  Valuing others above oneself is one of those silly, though strangely effective, tactics of the Enemy.  If she stops to make him a cup of coffee, the next thing you know she’ll be rubbing his shoulders and flirting with him on the couch.  It can progress out of your control if you’re not careful.

Along those lines, be sure the Mother starts to value productivity above everything else.  Have her wake up early and work non-stop until bedtime.  If the husband relaxes in the evening with an hour of computer gaming, be sure the wife notices the pile of unfolded laundry or unswept floors.  Do not let her grab a book and relax alongside her husband.  Diligence, often one of the Enemy’s virtues, when overdone can be used to our advantage as well.  Convince her that as long as there is a shred of work to be done (and there always is), no one should be resting.  Then, as she folds and sweeps and he sits, you can introduce the sweet bitterness of resentment.

A word of caution here.  Remember, the love of a husband can be dangerous to our cause.  If he senses her unhappiness, he may begin to help or (even worse) show her affection.  This is where previously planted seeds of resentment can be guided into full bloom.  Make her think that his displays of affection are because he “only wants one thing”.  Do not let her view his help with the dishes (or kisses or cuddling) as having pure motives.  If he shows his desire for her, convince her that she is being used, not loved.  As we both know, the ultimate Act of Marriage can bond them together in a way that can undo much hard work on our part.  Because of this, do not allow her to prioritize that Act on her mental to-do-list.  It is in our best interest to keep the wife busy, busy, busy and be sure she’s far too exhausted to consider it by the end of the evening.

Now, onto the children.  Lovely little opportunities for us, the children, especially the little ones.  We all know that children are a favorite tool of the Enemy.  He calls them Blessings and Gifts and calls parents to lay down their lives for them, just as his Son did.  Insane, I know.  We must convince her that the obnoxious little people she has charge of are not really worth her sacrifice.  When the Mother first dreamed of having children, she probably imagined large, innocent eyes and chubby, happy grins taking up the majority of her days.  Do your best to shatter those expectations.

Instead, draw attention to how much they take from her.  Let them take and take and take…  And need and need and need, until the Mother feels totally spent.  Let them start crying at the same time for the most irrational of reasons.  Let the noise bother her.  Let their bad behavior surprise her.  Do your best to make the day-to-day monotony of diaper changes, meals, and baths seem simultaneously overwhelming and beneath her.  Let her think of all the better, more important things she could be doing with her life, if only she didn’t have the children.

Don’t let her think about the future responsible, faithful adults she is raising.  Society changers, friends, workers, husbands or wives…  Don’t let her think of them as life-long companions who will love her, converse with her, and care for her in her old age.  Oh, and definitely don’t let her think about the grandchildren she might be able to see in their little grubby faces if she looked hard enough now.  No, no, no…  Thinking ahead to when her work bears fruit, as the Enemy calls it, is always a bad idea.  Keep words like ‘heritage’ or ‘legacy’ far away from the runny noses and jelly stains of the day to day.

If there is any last piece of advice I have for you, Wormwood, it is to keep the Mother looking to her husband or family for her fulfillment and comfort.  We know that the Enemy is always watching and willing to take the burdens of his children, but if we divert the Mother’s attention well enough, this fact can be forgotten.  Make her look to her husband for worth and affirmation.  Then, when he lets her down (as he is sure to do), she will be ours to torment.  Yes, the worst thing that could happen would be for her to turn to Him with her needs and inadequacies.  Once she realizes that the Enemy offers a peace that transcends her situation, our work could be utterly compromised.

Your Malevolent Uncle,

Screwtape

 

By Kelsey Shade, the beautiful, young wife and mother of three boys that blogs at Organizing Life with Littles!

Cleaning with Little Ones Around the House

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As a mom of two, it doesn’t surprise me that I often hear moms complain that it’s too difficult to keep a house clean with young children… I understand 😀  especially when you have little ones who delight in pulling all their clothes out of the drawers and playing with the clean laundry!

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But I discovered a post by a Grandmother, author and blogger, Mrs. Sharon White, titled Cleaning House with Baby, and fell in love with the wonderful way she embraces keeping her home, even with little ones to entertain!  I thought you might be encouraged in hearing her words as much as I was!

From Sharon:

It is certainly a challenge to keep house, when there are babies and small children around. But these are the loveliest times of all for the homemaker.

Babies often look on curiously at all the work we do in the home.  They are shocked by the noise from the blender, the vacuum, and the washing machine. 

One day last week, I was making a cake.  I had baby in the carriage.  He watched as I brought down the large mixing bowl (to his level), and used my electric hand-mixer to stir the cake batter. He loved it!

I have put him in the walker while vacuuming the carpet.  It is easy to play fun games with baby, when one is cleaning.  He enjoys seeing all the action going on at Grandmother’s house.

We garden together, hang clothes on the line, wash dishes, sing hymns, sweep floors, and wash the high-chair tray!  Well, I do all those things while baby watches.  (Much like when I am helping Mister with his stuff, He does all the work, while I stand nearby.)  It’s really the being together that is wonderful.

Part of playing with babies and children most certainly happens while we are living our normal, daily life.  We just bring the children along in our activities, making our work and our days delightful.

Blessings
Mrs. White

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Since we want to have more children, it’d be nuts for me to wait until they’re older to figure out how to keep the house cleaned and organized… here are some ideas that help us in our household to enjoy cleaning, but also enjoy playing together:

  • Use their messes they make in their playtime as an opportunity to teach them the proper way to clean up.  If they get all the clothes out, help them learn that it’s nice to put them back in the drawers.
  • Help them to remember to put away toys they have gotten out that they are no longer playing with.
  • One of the best things I’ve learned to do, is to spend about 15-30 minutes every evening just tidying up the entire living room area and game room.  Our oldest boy joins in with me and takes this time before dinner to put back all his toys he’s gotten out.  It’s great to get to relax in a calm, quiet living room after I’ve tucked them both in bed, instead of having to run around putting his toys back myself, or tripping over action figures and blocks.
  • One of my favorite things to do, and something my husband teases me about, is that I love to put on music when I clean, especially with the boys doing their own thing.  Our oldest smiles and dances with me, the baby smiles at us in the most delighted way, and claps his baby hands.  Music is the great mood-changer, and if you don’t necessarily like cleaning and organizing, at least you can do it with a great song in the background!

Blessings for Your New Year!

I can never believe how fast a year can fly by, it always gets to me and makes me appreciate the days even more.  Time goes by too fast!  I want to soak up the joy of being with my children and husband, I really do wish it would just go a little more slowly.

2016 is going to have some interesting adventures, I’m wondering what God will do in our life, what kind of trials we may face or joys that will come?

Sitting here, with our beautiful Christmas tree still up in the dark, peacefully quiet living room, I want to share with you some verses I was reading early this morning, some blessings for your new year 2016!

HE CROWNS THE YEAR WITH GOODNESS:

“How happy is the one You choose and bring near to live in Your courts!  We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple. …

“You crown the year with Your goodness;

Your ways overflow with abundance!”

Psalm 65:4,11

STRENGTH & REFUGE WHEN FACING TRIALS IN 2016:

Lord, I seek refuge in You; never let me be disgraced.

In Your Justice, rescue and deliver me; listen closely to me and save me.

Be a rock of refuge for me, where I can always go.

Give the command to save me, for You are my rock and fortress.

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and oppressive.

For You are my hope, Lord God, my confidence from my youth.

I have leaned on You from birth; You took me from my mother’s womb.

My praise is always about You.  I have become an ominous sign to many, but You are my strong refuge.

My mouth is full of praise and honor to You all day long. …

For my enemies talk about me, and those who spy on me plot together, “God has abandoned him; chase him and catch him, for there is no one to rescue him.”

God, do not be far from me; my God, hurry to help me.

May my adversaries be disgraced and confounded; may those who seek my harm be covered with disgrace and humiliation. …

My mouth will tell about Your righteousness and Your salvation all day long, though I cannot sum them up. …

God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still proclaim Your wonderful works.

Even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me.

Then I will proclaim Your power to another generation (hopefully to our grandchildren!), Your strength I will proclaim to all who are to come.

Your righteousness reaches heaven, God, You who have done great things; God, who is like You?

You caused me to experience many troubles and misfortunes, but You will revive me again and again.

You will bring me up again, even from the depths of the earth.

You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

My lips will shout for Joy when I sing praise to You, because You have redeemed me.  Therefore, my tongue will proclaim Your righteousness all day long, for those who seek my harm will be disgraced and confounded.” Psalm 71

GOD AS YOUR STRONGHOLD FOR 2016:

“I will sing of Your strength and will joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning.

For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.

To You, my strength, I sing praises, because God is my stronghold – my faithful God.” Pslam 59

 

 

Can I Desire Personal & Spiritual Growth for My Husband?

I recently came across a question from a wife that was asking if it was ok to seek personal (and to me that also means spiritual) growth for her husband.  She wondered if maybe personal growth (desiring it) should only be for oneself, and if it was maybe wrong to desire it for someone else.

This is a great question, and something I believe God’s shown me even recently through the many lessons He’s taught me this past year of 2015. Not about my husband at all, but it centered around me desiring personal and spiritual growth for people I interacted with who were continually acting sinfully and in ways that dishonored God.  I’m so grateful and humbled that He’s done so much in my life in just this one year, and especially these last few months!

So without further ado, this is the answer I gave her:

Hey (Name Redacted), from what I’ve been taught and believe, I do think you can desire personal growth (spiritual growth as well) for your husband, it just has to be directed in a positive, respectful way, and probably not reminding him of his “goals” when he falls short constantly.

The best thing you can do is to pray for him in this area, but then don’t let it become what you focus on so much that this is what the majority of your time spent with God is about. If you are looking too much at the speck in his eye, and forget the “plank” in your own (not to say you have a plank-sized sin, just to remind you that we ALL sin), that focusing so much on someone else’s sin can be a distraction from our own spiritual and personal growth. Wanting him to grow more can become what you think about too much, instead of focusing on what God wants you to do, how God wants you to grow. I know it can be hard – even with people that aren’t your husband, we want them to change when we see them caught up in a stronghold that’s making them act sinful. It can be tempting to hear sermons and tidbits of wisdom and immediately apply it to them and think “Oh if only he/she was hearing that! Maybe then they’d stop their sinful behavior!!” It’s good to pray for others and trust God to work in their heart, but ultimately God wants you to grow in your own spirit and not be overly bothered by someone else’s lack of spiritual growth.

Satan wants to get you off focus of doing God’s will for your life, so he will use anything to achieve that goal, even good things like seeking personal/spiritual growth for your husband or someone else you wish was behaving differently.

Hope that helps you!

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Some more thoughts:

When someone you love, or know and interact with, is acting in a sinful and hurtful way, it can be extremely tempting to want to go in and “fix” the situation and “fix” them, and if we really love and care about them, this comes naturally.  Loving others means you want the best for them, that you want to see them become all that God desires them to be.  Giving them a loving, life-giving rebuke in a kind and gentle way can be extremely beneficial if their heart is humble and open and their spirit is desiring to follow God’s will for their life.  But what if their heart is hard and calloused, what if they mock the wisdom from God in how to treat other people, or mock your attempt to help them change and use it as fuel to further attack you for wanting to help them?

  • You have to step back, and realize if you’re dealing with someone spiritually wounded.  If they are reacting in hate or with mocking behavior, something is very off within their spirit, and they will not be able to receive wisdom most likely at this time in their life.  A reaction like that means they are generally in rebellion to God and against the Holy Spirit (if they’re Christian), and are grieving the Holy Spirit with their words and actions.  This may be because they’ve experienced a dramatic event in their life, immense pain they are feeling, anger, or a loss of purpose and belief that God can use them and their life experiences to further His Kingdom.
  • If they are spiritually wounded, don’t take their harsh and angry reactions or rejections to heart.  Try to see where they’re at and feel compassion and love for them, even in the state they’re in.  When you minister to other people, and especially the wounded and broken, they will sometimes “spiritually vomit” all over you because they are so far from God and His will in how He desires them to act. We need to expect this, and not be surprised when it happens with people who are Christian.  The saved are still depraved creatures, and we all need God desperately.
  • Keep your mind from focusing on their sin too much, pray for them, but have a peaceful confidence that God will deal with their sin – because He will and always has.
  • Focus on God’s will for your life, and doing the important things that He’s already put in your path for you to accomplish.
  • Don’t let other people’s sins become a distraction for you, taking away from the time you need to spend doing God’s work in your life and in the lives of those He’s put in your path to minister to.  Time is our most precious commodity, and how we use it matters so much!  Satan can use another person’s stronghold, your focusing on it, in order to stunt your own spiritual growth and spend your time wasted.  It gives him great satisfaction when God’s children are off track and ineffective.
  • Don’t give in to despair, have good boundaries around how much you allow other people’s sins to affect you.  Acknowledge that you’re only responsible for your own life, and are called to live at peace as much as it depends on you.  You can’t control other people’s thoughts and actions, you can’t ultimately change their minds or hearts to desire to act and behave godly.

 

Trying to Confront a Husband on His Sinful Behavior

This is a GREAT video from the Peaceful Wife!  I love and adore April – how can anyone not love her after seeing her in this video.

Since we’re well into the holidays and these times can add extra stress with family or even our own husbands/wives, this is a great video about responding to other’s sin against you.  No matter who is sinning against you, it is crucial that YOU have self-control, display goodness even toward your offender, display PATIENCE, and LOVE toward your offender.

Listen to April’s words and video (16 minutes), and be refreshed dear, sweet reader!!  She’s got it right, and thank God she is allowing herself to be used in helping others to stay godly, to react godly, and to treat everyone with kindness and respect.

If you feel you are disrespecting your husband though, a video (for singles) that I thought went along with this discussion is also great:

Staying Focus: Having Joy in Spite Of

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I feel like I’ve learned so many little lessons from not only this Joy study itself, but the many different things in my life during this time.  It’s amazing to experience God’s peace and joy, even in the midst of things that would seem negative, things that normally would rob one of joy or happiness or peace.

This week, we’ve been learning how to practice having joy in spite of difficult or less than desirable circumstances.  This journey over the past few months has truly grown me and stretched me, to where I’m not even the same person I was a few months ago.  I’ve heard so many messages now on what God was pressing on my heart – Staying Focus – and so many gifts of wisdom from people in my life on how to respond in better, more Christ-like ways to attacks and accusations.

I don’t retaliate anymore when I’m tempted to.  I don’t try to fight back in ways that only make matters worse.  I don’t give in to feeling ashamed when Satan uses people to bring up my past failures, things I’ve already apologized for and reconciled with them about.  I know God’s used my past failures to help me learn how to respond better in my life, and that I’m fully covered in His grace.  There is no more condemnation for my past failings.  And I know how to spot Satan’s attempts at stealing my joy – they don’t even work anymore – when he tries to condemn me for things I’ve already been forgiven for.  I know I’m covered in God’s grace, and feel no condemnation!  I still have joy 🙂

Now I actually celebrate and am actually a little excited to see insults and slander, not because of it or the pain it does cause me, but because I have the renewed chance to respond the right way this time.  To do things right.  Even last night, I decided to pray for someone that was obviously acting without self-control… again, and trying to cause harm by what she thought was a good plan at retaliation at feeling wronged.  It was exciting for me to know and decide right then at that moment, that I would not retaliate, and that I would pass that test God was giving me to learn how to deal better with sinful people.

I decided not to retaliate with insults or accusations of her past wrongs, or attacks like the last time I failed this test.  I decided I was going to forgive her, again, pray for her, and thank God for what she was doing and saying.  Sometimes we have to forgive people multiple times because they keep allowing Satan to use them.  But my reaction last night, is a far cry from what I would have done just a few months ago.  And that’s amazing!

It’s something to celebrate!  So I’m celebrating this week, for doing something I never would have been able to do with such grace this time last year.  I’m celebrating for the progress and maturity this means for me.  I’m celebrating because in passing this test, I’ll be able to move to the next level with God and be ready for whatever He has for me there.

So be encouraged readers!!  Have joy – joy in spite of.