Monday, June 30, 2008

Beauty is passing

As I was thinking what I was going to wear the other day, I had to put a stop to a train of thoughts which started up in my mind. They went something like this:

What am I going to wear?…..I just don’t have any clothes that fit me properly….I need to get some more clothes….maybe if I lost a bit more weight then I could fit into the clothes I do have better….I really need to stop eating so much chocolate and junk….I need to do more exercise….I just want to throw out all my clothes and start all over again….I wish I had more money to buy more clothes…..

These thoughts were starting to make me feel moody and incredibly ungrateful!

I was immediately reminded of my ‘Heart Check’ questions which I have stuck to a cabinet in my bathroom, I open it up everyday, and it reminds me to consider my heart when I am getting ready. These questions come from a book called Biblical Womanhood in the Home.

Heart Check
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

Self examination: these questions help up discern our thoughts, motives, and goals with regard to the issue of beauty. Self-glory or God’s glory? Ask yourself these questions.

1. Do I spend more time daily caring for my personal appearance than I do in Bible study, prayer and worship?

2. Do I spend excessive money on clothes, hair and makeup, or is it an amount that is God-honouring?

3. Do I want to lose weight to “feel better about myself”, or do I desire to be self-disciplined for the glory of God?

4. Am I on a quest for thinness to impress others, or do I seek to cultivate eating habits that honour God? We should be self-controlled in what we eat not merely to maintain a certain weight, but because self-control is a fruit of the spirit.

5. Do I exercise to try to create or maintain a “good figure”, or do I exercise to strengthen my body for God’s service?

6. Is there anything about my appearance that I wish I could change, or am I fully grateful to God for the way He created me? Psalm 139:14 ‘"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”

7. Am I jealous of the appearance of others, or am I truly glad when I observe other women who are more physically attractive than I?

8. Do I covet the wardrobe of others, or do I genuinely rejoice when other women are able to afford and purchase new clothing?

9. When I attend an event or activity, do I sinfully compare myself with others, or do I go asking God to show me whom to love and how to do it?

10. Do I ever dress immodestly or with the intent of drawing attention to myself, or do I always dress in a manner that pleases God?

On a normal day, I am very content with how I look, but there are days, like the other day when I thought I had nothing to wear, that I start to fool myself into thinking that I am not ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (actually I think the real problem was that I hadn’t done any washing for a few days and most of my ‘normal’ clothes were in the wash!).

It is a discipline to make myself get off that train of thought and check my heart. It is important to look presentable, we need to spend a bit of time doing that, but what is my reason for it? Do I want to look a certain way to impress others? to feel good about myself? I need to dress to impress God, I can look attractive on the outside according to human standards, but my inner beauty is so much more important. God doesn’t want us to neglect our outer beauty, but to Him and ultimately to others, our inner beauty is what is most ‘precious in His sight’.

These verses are also stuck to my bathroom cabinet.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing fine gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I could spend ages looking at my clothes in despair not knowing what to wear, hence cultivating an ungrateful and self absorbed attitude, or I could just make a decision quickly about what I will wear and purpose to be thankful for the clothes I do have and for the way God has made me. Does it really matter if I wore the same clothes I did yesterday? (I guess it would if they were really dirty!)

I love what Anne Ortlund suggests in her book Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. She has just a handful of outfits that she wears, to avoid having to think too much about what to wear. It is worth taking the time to consider which clothes fit best - which are modest and comfortable, and stick with the same combinations. It is nice to dress up and buy new clothes sometimes, but if we are spending more time on this than what we do with God, and we are never satisfied with what we already have, our priorities will start to get mixed up. Several years ago I made a decision not to buy any new clothes for a 6 month period. I disciplined myself to ‘make do’ with the clothes I already had in my wardrobe. This was so wonderfully freeing for me in many ways. It saved me time at the shops as I didn’t need to look at any clothes shop, even just to browse, I got used to wearing the same clothes day after day and was completely content with this, not worrying about whether someone would spot me in the same outfit two days in a row! And it made me realise that actually, I do have quite a lot of clothes and I really don’t need any new ones!

I am also very conscious of the fact that I have 3 little girls watching me each day. Do they see me spend more time in front of the mirror than what I do with God? I don’t want them to become self absorbed with how they look, what they wear, or what others think about them, so I need to make sure that I am setting an example on how many and what sort of clothes I buy, how much time I spend in front of the mirror, and how much time I spend with God.

How important it is to remember that,

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing
But a woman who fears the LORD shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Devotions for Children

A couple of years I was inspired by a friend who went through the Shorter Catechism with their young children. I was amazed that at the age of 2 and 3 her children could answer 20 questions like, what is God? who made the world? what is sin? what are the 10 commandments?

So I went looking in Koorong for a similar list of questions and answers. I came across this book, My 1st Book of Questions and Answers by Carine Mackenzie for around $2.50. There are 114 questions, each question has an answer and a bible reference.

I started going through this book with my children and I was amazed at how easily they were able to remember the answers to these questions. One of the first questions our children learnt was question number 1.

Who made you?
Genesis 1:27

This is what the author says about her book.

Children of past generations were brought up with the immense benefit of learning the Shorter Catechism. A basic knowledge of Christian doctrine is vital in our day too.

This simple summary of some of the essentials of the faith compiled as a set of questions answers is aimed at helping a young child learn what everyone needs to know. ....

The learning of doctrine is not salvation by a good foundation of truth is valuable in combating false ideas which so easily divert young minds. Remember God's promise to his people, "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts."

Teaching the children is our responsibility. Applying that truth to the child's heart is the Lord's work.

There are 3 other books the same size which we use for our morning devotions.

My 1st Book of Bible Promises

My 1st Book of Memory Verses

My 1st Book of Christian Values

Each day we usually go through a bible promise, a Christian value and revise a memory verse for the week. I am particularly enjoying going over the promises of God, they are such a wonderful encouragement and reminder of the security we can have in God.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Favourite things in my home

The other day I bumped into a friend I had not seen for a while and she told me she had heard about my home, and suggested I take photos of it and put them on my facebook! At the time I thought, do people really want to see pictures of my home? What would they want to see? It got me thinking about what I like best about my home and what I find really useful and what other people comment on when they come to my home.

So... here are a few of my favourite things.
The kids craft shelf.
This bookshelf/cupboard is located right next to our kitchen table where they do all their craft, drawing etc. I have put all their craft bits and pieces (patty pans, pipe cleaners, wooden sticks, googly eyes, glitter, ribbons etc.) into glass jars so we can see what there is. A few years ago I used to put all their bits and pieces, glue, scissors, boxes etc into a big box and let my eldest daughter just 'go for it' in the afternoons, but come pack up time she it would just get dumped back in the box and things would get thrown away and there would be a big mess all over the floor! Now when they do craft I just put a few jars on the table and let them 'create', because its all in clear jars, they can see what there is to use and its very easy to put things back in their jar when they are done!

Our collage wall. This wall is located in the hallway connecting two bedrooms, bathroom and laundry. I love displaying the kids pictures, and this wall is nice and long.

Framed kids pictures. I had bought these two silver frames from Ikea one day at a bargain price, but I didn't know where to put them or what to put in them. Two Christmas's ago I asked my then 3 year old daughter to paint me an angel to put in one of these frames to decorate for Christmas. I helped her paint the flowers. I was intending to keep them there temporarily while I searched for some nice prints, but, I have grown to love these pictures and I get a lot of comments about them, so I think they will stay there!

I just love the colours this painting!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Are you more loving?

That was the question I had to confront myself with a few Sundays ago. My capacity to love others had been wearing thin and my love tank was almost empty! The past week or so I had been hiding out at home, not wanting to catch up with anyone, and one Sunday I escaped early from church to avoid having to fellowship with anyone! When I got home, I knew I had some inward issues to deal with so I forced myself to pick up one of the books I am reading, 10 questions to diagnose your spiritual health, by Donald S Whitney. I analysed each of the questions and realised that 4 out of the 10 relate to people! I was immediately drawn to read question no. 3 which is Are you more loving?. As I was reading this chapter, I started to feel immensely convicted. Heres a snippet.

The decline of love
When love grows colder, our sin increasingly manifests itself and we look more unlike Jesus. We lose patience easily, whereas 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that "Love suffers long." Unkindness becomes common, yet love "is kind". We become sinfully envious of the advantages and privileges of others, perhaps even of those within our own family; conversely, "love does not envy." When challenged about our lack of love, we quickly and quite confidently list all the sacrifices and other proofs of our love, and yet "love does not parade itself, is not puffed up." As our hearts harden against love, we become less courteous, especially to those closest to us, in contrast to love which "does not behave rudely" (1 Corinthians 13:5). We begin to consider ourselves and our "rights" as more important than others and their needs, whereas love "does not seek its own." When love is in decline we are more easily angered, but love "is not provoked." A lack of love is often faultfinding, and it mentally keeps score of offenses, but love "thinks no evil."

The word of God is so very convicting, so life changing! I had been struggling to give out anymore love, and yet when I examined my love in light of 1 Corinthians 13, I realised that it had been so full of self, so insincere. Love does not "seek its own" I had been seeking love in return, but God wants us to love selflessly, for His glory, not to get in return, not to puff ourselves up and get recognition. Whitney quotes from Maurice Roberts,

Why is real Christian love so scarce in the world? It is because its cultivation requires nothing less than the reversal of every instinct in our fallen natures. Love is against the grain of nature. It is every fiber of our being as sinners. But nature, in the regenerate, is under the higher power of grace....What the unregenertae cannot do, true Christians may and must.

Whitney exhorts us to Let your heart be often warmed by the fire of God's love. It always comes back to Him. To the cross. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I must constantly examine my love for His sake, for the eternal destiny of others. Jesus said that love is the clearest mark of a Christian.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you. By this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

God is the only one who can fill my love tank way past the fill line!

Just in case you are curious about what the other 9 questions to diagnose your spiritual health are, here they are!

1. Do you thirst for God?
2. Are you governed increasingly by God's word?
3. Are you more loving?
4. Are you more sensitive to God's presence?
5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
6. Do you delight in the bride of Christ?
7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly more important to you?
8. Do you still grieve over sin?
9. Are you a quick forgiver?
10. Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sermons to download

A couple of days ago I came across a website about a conference held at Grace Community Church this past week called Resolved. Some of my favourite speakers and writers were there, John Piper, Randy Alcorn, C J Mahaney, John MacArthur.

The goal of the conference is: equip believers to greater faithfulness to Jesus Christ, to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers, to affirm the Bible’s authority over the life of every person, and to point people back to their local churches for growth and accountability.

I am looking forward to listening to the messages.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ignoring the dust and dirt!

I have been noticing a lot of dirt and dust around my house lately, and what I am realising is that it really doesn't bother me!

About a year before I had my first child I made the decision to leave a full time job to concentrate more on being a good wife, becoming more domesticated and to prepare myself for any future children! Naturally I am not a very domestic, clean or tidy person.

This was such a life changing decision for me. Without the pressure of full time work I was able to concentrate so much more on the things that were important to me, like God, my husband, ministry and my home. I absolutely loved being at home more, I grew to actually enjoy cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing, etc.! I had to the time to learn new cleaning techniques, new recipes, and I grew to love decorating my house. So when my children came along, I felt somewhat prepared to be able to cope with looking after a husband, house and baby!

But... having said all this, come 4 children later, I am having to train myself again, only this time to ignore the dirt and dust! 7 years ago, I had to train myself to notice the dirt and dust, and now to ignore it??! It has taken me a few years to be able to sit on the couch and cuddle my children and not get distracted from enjoying the moment by noticing the dust on the bookshelf and dirt on the floor!

I grew up in a home that was not perfectly tidy or clean, in fact often it was a little messy, mostly due to the fact that my mother was unwell for a lot of my life at home. But I have never felt that my parents didn't love me or have time for me. My mother was always so willing to spend time with me, to help me in whatever I needed, she was always there for me. Housework, never seemed more important to her than me. I am so thankful for her example, for the sacrifices she made for us, for the way she was able to ignore the dust and dirt to be with us.

I pray that I can be the same for my children, that when they look back over their childhood they can say that I always had time for them. It is so very hard for me because I love to have a clean, nice looking house, but God is helping me to not notice the dirt and dust, and to trust in Him to provide a suitable opportunity to clean without robbing time I could be spending with my children.

A year ago I came across this little poem in an old Christian Women's recipe book and it is always such a challenge for me.

Change of schedule
I am learning that in household tasks
Perfection is not what is best;
To stop and share love of a child
May mean some dust upon a chest,
To help a friend who is in need
May mean that I must wash tomorrow,
But I can leave my clothes today
If I am called to lighten sorrow.
A schedule always can be changed
If there is comfort that it brings
Oh, let me never grow too weak,
Neglecting people for mere things.
Louise Darcy

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Delighting in my children

There are times when I wonder if my life would be easier if I only had 1 or 2 children! I sometimes get envious or people who have 2 children and I covet all the time they probably get to spend with each of their children individually. Those times when I lie down on the couch to have a cuddle and read a book with 1 child, then as soon as the others see my lying down they come running over and crawl all over me looking for a spot to squeeze into. Those times when I am pushing 1 child on a swing and delighting in their smiles and laughter, and then the other 3 hop onto the adjoining swings and plead to be swung as well.

To be honest, I often have to force myself to enjoy their company. To not begrude their presence, especially when they start quarreling and whining! But, when I start thinking like this I have to redirect my thoughts and turn them into praise and thanks to God for giving me my 4 wonderful children. I think about all the wonderful blessings there are in having 4 children. I love watching them chase each other, cuddling each other, helping each other, being kind to each other, laughing together, conversing with each other, praying together.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend a whole morning with my 3 child. It was such a delight, we fed the ducks, played on the playground, and painted together. It was wonderful to be able to focus just on her, to give my full attention to her, to walk at her pace, go where she wanted to go, without having to keep my eyes on 2 or 3 others in my care! All throughout my time with her I was thinking about how much God delights in us spending time with Him. Even though my 3rd child is with me all throughout my day, I don’t get to interact with her intimately very often because my attention is spread around on other children and tasks before me. That is why I need to set aside time each day to sit with her, to cuddle her, to enjoy her, to find out more about her. If I don’t do this with each of my children, they may start to feel unloved, distant from me, even though I am right there with them all the day. In the same way I know that God is with me all throughout my day, I talk to Him, think about Him, but how often do I actually sit down and spend time with Him, talking to Him, allowing Him to talk with me, to learn more about Him. If I don’t do this He won’t love me any less because His love never changes, His love is unconditional, but I will start to feel less in love with Him. I will start to feel distant from Him. While reading “Communion with God” by the Puritan Pastor John Owen, I came across these thoughts about God’s love.

“…God’s love is like the sun, always the same, always the same in its light, though a cloud may sometimes hide it. Our love is like the moon. Sometimes it is full. Sometimes it is only a thin crescemt.

The love of the Father is the same for all whom He has chosen to love. Whom God loves He loves to the end, and He loves them all alike. On whom He sets His love, it is set for ever. God’s love does not grow to eternity or lessen in time. God’s love is an eternal love that had no beginning and that shall have no end. It is a love that cannot be increased by anything we do and that cannot be lessened by anything in us.”

When I think about how hard it is sometimes to show love to my children, to spend time with them individually, to delight in their company and in the things they do, I realised how truly amazing God is in the way He loves so many of us in such an intimate way, all at the same time! I love it when all of us are together, when we have fun together, when we go out together, go to church together, and part of my loving being together is cultivated through spending time with each member of my family individually (my husband included). Imagine how much it must delight God to see His family spending time with each other, when we pray together, when we do good works for each other, when we encourage and exhort each other when we are in church rejoicing in Him together.

John Owen says later in his book,

“Christ refreshes himself with his own graces in his people, by his Spirit which he has given them. The Lord Christ greatly delights in the sweet fruits of the Spirit in his saints.”

I find it truly amazing that God should delight in me??! I am so thankful for the love of God,

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Monday, June 16, 2008

Crafty weekend

I woke up on Saturday morning feeling rather inspired to sew! I went through all my materials and decided to make a skirt for child no. 3, who is rather obsessed with skirts and dresses! However, in the meantime, I came across an old craft book which my mother used to use. It brought back old memories of when I was a little girl. I used to make little mice out of felt and create little mice villages.
I thought while I am in a 'sewing mood' I should make my children some little mice! Sooooo I spent the rest of the day was spent making 10 little white, cream, light brown and dark brown mice! While I was making the mice, the kids made houses, boats, furniture etc. for the mice. It kept us all entertained for most of the day.!

Later that day I helped them create some mini sand boxes. Because the sand pit has been rather soggy lately, I put some sand in a shallow box and gave them small animals, diggers, rocks, sticks, leaves, glitter, and little people and let them create a mini place! My kids love sand and this keeps them busy for ages and they don't get all sandy!!

My husband can't understand why I always find messy things for them to do, (he always goes for the 'clean' activities like tv and kicking a ball!) but I just love watching them create things!

A Cheerful mother

This post is a follow on from 'Why be a mother'. Last year I was challenged to become a more 'cheerful mother'. The title of this blog was inspired by a book I have used to guide me in my mothering. "The Mother at Home" by John S C Abott written in 1833, was lent to me by a very inspirational friend of mine. The first half of the book is all about the mother - her relationship with God and her character. If I want my children to love the Lord with all their heart, to love others as themselves, to have characters that display the fruits of the spirit, then.... I had to be like that!

So often I find I am telling my children to be wait patiently while we are in the check out line, while inwardly I am becoming impatient, and frustrated with the person in front of me who has 20 items in the 10 items only line! I tell my son to speak kindly to his sister after she has snatched his toy away from him, and yet how often do I inwardly and outwardly snap at my husband when he leaves his shoes in the middle of the bedroom floor!

Two of the chapters in the book are called Fruits of Piety, and the fruit that challenged me the most was 'Cheerfulness'. I long for my children to have a cheerful spirit in all things, yet I found that often I wasn't such a cheerful person! Abott says,

"Therefore make it a daily duty to be cheerful. Pray that you may be cheerful; meditate upon your blessings; look upon the bright side of everything; and carefully study your own heart, that you may ascertain what those feelings are which disturb the tranquillity of your mind, and should therefore be checked, and what those emotions are which are satisfying and pleasurable, and should therefore be cultivated. You probably have no idea how much your usefulness and happiness depends upon the careful cultivation of a cheerful spirit."

Upon reading this book I was also challenged in my own devotional life. If I wanted to be 'cheerful' I knew I had to receive that cheerfulness from God each morning before I started my day. The key to being a better mother was to spend more time with my perfect Father. The more I learn about how He delights in me as His child, the more it motivates me to delight in my children. The more I learn about His unconditional love for me knowing how often I sin and fail Him, the more I am challenged to love my children unconditionally despite their sin and disobedience.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bike riding

This week has been memorable in our household. Both no. 1 and no. 2 child have been riding their bikes without training wheels! No. 2 even rode his all the way to Kindy, with Daddy running alongside trying to keep up! It was exciting to watch no. 2 ride his bike around and around the backyard, we set up a cheersquad and counted and clapped every lap he did before crashing! I feel like its another step in their growing up, it was sad to see the training wheels come off, but exciting to see them learning a new skill!

Why be a mother?

I had to ask myself that question a few months before I fell pregnant with my first child. As I have already mentioned, I am a purposeful person, I needed a reason to have children. I know it says in the Bible to 'be fruitful and multiply', but that wasn't enough for me. I had grown up without any babies or kids around me, so I didn't know what I would be missing out on if I didn't have kids. It wasn't until I listened to a tape by John MacCarthur called, "Hannah - a Godly Mother" that I found my purpose for having children.

Hannah had been so desperate to have a child, this is what MacArthur said,

"....She wanted a child, she desperately wanted a child. She wanted a child so much that she wept and fasted. Her heart was broken over the fact that she could not have a child, but she didn't have a selfish motive, she didn't want a child to live out her unfulfilled fantasies. She didn't want a child to dress like little Lord Fauntleroy and show off. She didn't want a child to fulfil her own need for love. She wanted a child to give to God..."

And that was what Hannah did, when God gave her Samuel, she gave him back to God 3 years after he was born.

Finally it clicked for me, my purpose for having children was to give them to God. To raise them up for Him, to love Him, know Him, serve Him and live for His glory.

"So she promised God, I'll give You this child, I just want to be fulfilled as a mother, I just want to raise a godly son to give back to Your glory. And if you give him to me, I'll give him back. This is her promise, to present her child to God. That's the essence of a godly mother. While praying for a child she prays for that child not for a wrong reason but a right reason, to turn that child back to God from where the child came. That's the essence of a godly give the child to God."

So... my purpose for having children, is to raise them up for the glory of God. It is my responsibility to show them who God is, to be an example of Christ to them. They are completely His, He can do with them as He pleases. He has given them to Henry and I to "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4) and to teach them the truth of God's word (Deuteronomy 6:7).

In my next post I will write some more about how I was challenged in this area.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why do I want to blog?

Why do I want to blog?? I have been considering it on and off for a while. I don't like to dive into things straight away, I need a purpose, a plan and an outcome! I'm not sure if I have come up with all those yet, but its just one of those things I feel I should 'step out' and try! I have been journalling a lot on my computer lately, to help release some of the mess in my mind! I don't want this blog to be just a spill out of everything in there, cause that would be very dangerous! But, as I am so into disciplines, I thought blogging might be a good discipline for me to get into, to help me work through some of the jumble that goes on in my head, and if people want an insight into that, then good on them!

Also, I want to capture memories of my children, hopefully this blog will remind me to cherish the moments, I have with them.

So......for now my purpose for blogging is, to help me capture moments with my children and to share insights and struggles about being a mother.

My plan is to try and blog every couple of days to start off with, until I get the hang of it!

Outcomes......I hope to have a record of parts of my life as a mother, and I would appreciate any helpful insight (and encouragement!) along the way!!!

On the otherhand, maybe I am just doing it for my favourite inspirational blog writer, I think she is pretty convinced that I will start a blog one day, especially now that my husband has one!